Relative Morality



First you are told that, however crooked

A meter rule may be, or any line

Drawn by a hand, tending to an arc,

At least there is light. It doesn’t get

Any more straight that a beam of light, you’re told.

Romans, after all, would devise their famously

Parallel roads by the aid of candlelight.

Nothing more straight-laced, straight-up or direct,

My lad, nothing as honest as light.


Well there’s light in water, of course, there’s always

An exception to the rule: a stick will seem

To bend in it. Refraction: also how

White sun turns blue in a sky suspiciously

Full of nitrogen – riddled with nitrogen –

So in those senses, it isn’t always the same.

But otherwise yes, light is implacable,

Perfect, true and incorruptible.

Apart from reflection or refraction, true:

But otherwise the universe’s yardstick.


And at last you are told that light is relative

And everything more or less is relative

In such a way that, basically, gravity

Curves the movement and even the speed of this

Former universal constant, and as such:



If light itself, if light itself

Is open to persuasion; if the metaphor

For goodness in every school and book and song

Itself is pliable, politic, subject to

A caveat or two; can also be

A bent cop, crooked cop, poorly-drawn line,

Well: in relative terms, why shouldn’t I?



Even light itself subject to influences. That’s an observed natural phenomenon. Odd, when considered as a metaphor, isn’t it? 


Truly Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


Alternative ending to Robert Frost’s poem, based on the notion of hypothermia. Stopping by woods, forever. 



Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

And so, these promises I keep

I may let lie, while I desire

To forest’s night of snow and sleep.


I’ll make for me a simple fire,

Perhaps, sole comfort I’ll require,

While all the night these shadow call

Me to retire, and to retire,


So cold that man can scarcely crawl:

For sleep’s the easiest of all.

And dreams in snow so sweetly fall,

And dreams in snow so sweetly fall.

As though it never happened


-of a sudden it’s as though

we hadn’t fought. Not us, moments ago: possibly,

not ever. It’s all smiles and cat-noises

and a shared sofa, sprawled like

symbiosis itself on the sofa where once I

kept my exile, dying like Dante. Now

it’s sharing one dinner plate as if

students again too poor for

crockery and you luring a naughty spoon

of sauce to my mouth and

not screaming red agony at me,

but instead it’s all grated cheese, and Shiraz.


The fact we don’t even talk about

what you said, and I said, as we

curl up like cats –

as we join at the hip again and

make every sentence We and Us and

watch nonsense until the TV dies like

an unattended fire: that, perhaps,




Trying to capture a moment’s thought is, perhaps unsurprisingly, really tricky. A friend recently asked me to write a poem capturing the exact moment a couple knows it can’t work.

This is the brief moment of realising that actually, although you as a couple have made amends, you have not entirely resolved the underlying dilemma. It’s fine. You don’t need to. You will continue, a successful, honest, trusting couple. In fact it is probably healthier not to dwell. 

Purposefully incomplete. Not forming any judgment. Just capturing a moment. 


Nautical Distance





They still have not found

The depth of it. Black and thick and slow

As tar, and dark as pitch.


We take for granted nautical distances,

Treaties, fishing quotas, the migration

Of sea turtles. Holidays. We cling to

The calculable. We picture it as we imagine

A map to lay it out, for us.


But once you’re out: in a humble little boat

Lilting with the waves, staring out so

Far form the horizon, you may find

It’s never been known. Go on: drop your oars.

Roll up one sleeve, and lean

To trace your fingertips across the water.

They still have not found it: but maybe,

It will find you.



I have always, even as a small, defenceless child, been lured to sea monsters. When you consider just how little of the oceans has been explored, and how very few species we have discovered, it can open the possibilities of many wonderful and terrible things. I still to this day occasionally look up tales of “true hauntings” at sea. Search the The Ourang Medan, a relatively recent ghost ship phenomenon. 

Peace on the Mountain


The lesson ends, so teacher wipes the board.

The bell rings out, forgetting all it learns.

All the while there’s fire under the mountain

And it burns.


The village children ring around the fountain.

Their parents, at the pub, sing with their mates.

All the while there’s fire under the mountain,

And it waits.


The telly’s on. They stare above their feast

Served on trays with plastic cups and plates.

All the while fire rises from the east,

And it waits.


They don’t read. So imagination tires

With, you know: this and that. Consoles in bed.

They wait unknowingly for dragon fires:

They will be fed.



We aim in life for comfort, and simplicity.  Complacency and comfort may kill us all. 

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Would a second EU referendum be undemocratic?

For those of you following the EU / Brexit saga, this is a concise post about the constitutional issues regarding the rumoured “Second Referendum.” Well worth a read.

UK Human Rights Blog

It is only four days since the UK public narrowly voted to leave the European Union. A lot of people are now arguing for a second referendum. But would that be democratic? 

Like many people who voted to remain, I have been feeling down about the result. My social media feeds have been full of many of the states of grief, but mostly anger and denial. It is denial which, I think, is motiving the calls for a second referendum. I am therefore wary, as someone who would love for this all magically to go away, of the allure of those arguments. But, we are in uncharted waters. Millions are calling for a second referendum on the original question, and now likely Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt has called for a second referendum to decide whether the country would accept an exit deal.

Hunt’s argument is enticing, at first glance anyway. He begins by saying…

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Define Paradise



For some, Hell is other people: for others, Hell

Awaits for me. Perhaps in all I do

You see aberrance. I hope I wear it well,

And spare it from you.


We keep our dreams of heavens. Keep yours true,

Live for your hope, I pray, your truth divine.

Tell me of your paradise, by all means, too:

But let me keep mine.



It seems as though, in the wake of the recent horrors in Orlando, many voices are competing to declare their own divine truth. Some are defending the absolutist right to bear arms in the US Constitution; some are even lauding the murders as an act of just religious retribution. If these are the paths to paradise, it does not surprise me that so many gladly wander from them. 

I do not intend to make absolutist statements online, recorded forever, on the subject. I will only say, very narrowly in scope, that the borders of any absolute paradise definitionally end where a hell begins. So do not glorify your perfect truth, planting your flag proudly on the bodies of other people, and cite the divine.