The Abbey Ruins





As we step over the tumbled stone

And scattered masonry, you breathe

The dense dust rising at the hilltop.


An old archway is all that stands,

The rest a shattered temple, mere

Fragments of faith on the earth.


I pick up one piece of our history,

Heavy as guilt in the hand,

And let it drop to clattering silence.


And you believe that the old god watches

Over the world, still, from the sentry tower

Which has long since fallen.






How long until you leave? A piece of string.

Whereas, sat here in the dark of

The old barn, I may as well be so much

Old rope.


Rough in the hands, beard bristle,

Somehow oiled, a smell like the years’ deep

White grey dust:

The same old yarn,

Asleep, a coiled dead snakeskin,



But perched as I am upon

One high timber, haunting the oak

And looking down, there might well

Be length enough in me for

One last drop:

One fierce grasp for the beam,

That sore, tender gasp for air;


That last rough kiss to your neck,

Length enough to send you off

With a final, fond farewell.


Sky God



I hold your face like

A handful of empty sky,

So cold, and so close.


Would I ever know

The man who, one day, will be

Taken by the wind?


And I pray, like a

Broken raincloud overhead

For you, and for us,


I beg with my hands,

Reaching loveless, absent air;

That steel sky empties.



The Last O’Clock





There will be no parades. No day of mourning,

No solemn, stolid marches, no young boys

Roped in to carrying a coloured banner for you.


In truth, when it happens, you will wonder

That the last time you see the clock, it will read

13:24, the precise second lost forever


Between a gasp and a stutter: you will mutter

No great last words, have no last laugh;

But inside, a gentle loss of blood


Will flood an inconspicuous organ until

It floods no more. You will find that it is

Just one Tuesday of many, only as strange


As the loss of sensation in your right arm.

It will be as ordinary as any breath, that

Last one: and you will be sat, or laying down,


Just like the majority of every hour thus far;

Holding a pen, or wishing that you were holding

A pen, at last, to make that final mark.



The picture is from Breughel’s Icarus, referenced in W. H. Auden’s tragicomic Musee Des Beaux Arts:


“…how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

Last Night’s Mistress



And though she wakes in skies of wide array,

Her beauty holds no candle to the dawn.

She breaks with clouds and folds the light away,

Yet still the night is done.


The dance she keeps, and sleeps in wild affray;

When night has passed, her light is shed and gone.

The last of her is lost by light of day,

And her beauty holds no candle to the dawn.




The mistress may have the night. But, alas, she never steals the day. 



Broken Marriage


broken red wine glass.jpg


In our marriage rites we took

From the common cup,

Seeped deep in wine

And drank love dry.


When the fists came blunt,

When the glass tore apart

It cried out once

Piercingly in pain;


But unlike a skull, a glass

When broken does not bleed.




Thankfully unrelated to my own marriage. But based, terribly, upon true tales.