Through the windscreen, we see cars. Ahead,

dead cars, without start or end.

Above us, seagulls dance. But we aren’t there.


For now, we’re parked while in motion:

en route to standstill. Somehow

worse than if we’d never left, at all.


But at least we’re ready to board, right? I feel

we’re always waiting to board, car engine off

to save fuel, the ferry somewhere ahead;

cellophane picnic on the dashboard


the orange peel spices the air

between us, a tang of it,

pricks at the eyes


overhead, a single cloud, as if from

where a shuttle failed to make orbit:

dark, ruined, carefree


outside, and far across the grey quayside,

I see journeys – other people’s ships – leave silently, forever.



My old friend Gary Holdaway and I used to participate in a writing tug-of-war, each one responding to the last writer’s yank. We’re now trying to synchronise weekly outputs, every Sunday, based on a set 7-prompt theme. This week’s prompts were dancing, windows, unrequited love, spaceships, boats, food, and eye contact. 

Most of these prompts are explicitly referred to in the text, but there are two that need explanation. The first, unrequited love, is not so visible: a failed love from the narrator’s perspective, perhaps, a shuttle which has taken off but is disintegrating mid-air. I think the next prompt (eye contact) gives some further explanation though, in that the narrator may be to blame. Notice that he looks everywhere else but his partner. This is a man, cursing circumstance, but unable to admit that he has made a terrible mistake. 






The wine will do, I guess. A handful of patience,

you carry it with you, person after person

ushering past the solemn hats, ties, suits.

A village hall, decked almost to modernity,

paper plates, and fifty stackable chairs.

We know. And you are grateful for hearing it,

and if there’s anything at all that we can do.

Well, it’s a nice gesture, like a touch

on the arm, a weak smile. The cards you left unopened.

They brush past you, to the real unspoken hurt,

made all the more acute because everyone

is talking about it: being kind to the one

Guest who couldn’t make it.



For Nigel. It was fun. 





Rowing Boat



Rowing boat, cast wide and tired out

Over grey. You hold the oars, just as you

Hold the moment: if only for a while.


The last sight of land was a what-if,

Rippled out of view a while back. And now,

There’s only us and water. Only us

Perched upon a cold, grey,

Deep trouble.


I always found my way back to the sea:

She rustled in my dreams, she sang

In morning showers. Even when I laughed

I tasted her. And now


We’re here, I guess: by half-felt reckoning,

Halfway there, by our own. Here we are.


So what a map the stars are, huh: what words

Of advice are they, written all in guesses.


It’s only our decision, keeps us afloat.

And underneath is wide, cold, grey, deep trouble.




“People Die When They Are Killed”



Based on a meme derived from a quote, taken from the anime series Fate/Stay Night. It was probably a poor translation and certainly taken out of context, but people found it hilarious. The quote is of course entirely true. 



All tautology is true: as sure

As eggs is eggs, as sure as snow is white.

No man can bear what no man can endure:

Each day endures, until it bears its night.


The game of life has winners, losers, rules;

We only play the cards we have been dealt.

We know this all, we sang it in our schools,

That pain can only hurt you if it’s felt,


A leopard cannot lie about its spots;

A love will hunger when it’s unfulfilled.

All fruit is ripe until at last it rots.

We know that people die when they are killed.







Life itself is an act of consumption.

Lips are everything. A cherry, red

To burst on touch, unable to contain

Its tenderness, perhaps… a confection

Glazed with sight, served so sparingly,

Two mouthfuls of indulgence.


A waking warmth,

A fresh loaf of sleepy head beside me now,

A woken rest as soft as fresh-baked bread,



For love itself is a servant of consumption.




The first line, and inspiration for the poem, was actually from Eddie Redmayne in a sci-fi film, the name of which I have entirely forgotten. It was the take-away feature of the entire thing. 


English Comfort



And when you offer to listen,

you do so in the practiced ritual

of making tea.


You nod, pausing gingerly, your head

lowered over the kitchen surface.

You tend to me intensely through

the art of this instead,

the bag pressed tight,

strained right against the side

so it teases out darkly.

Bitter and teeth-sucked,

stained white china.


A chime of the spoon, the last

word, and then silence.




I find that a lot of my compatriots are much better at making tea than talking about mental health problems, as though one can be substituted for the other. 



Balderton Lake



Shadows stretching to an injured east,

Bruised and blackened evening over us.

The lasting signs of life are nearly gone.


A strange tide ripples out, these very last

Branches clinging to a sifting dusk:

While lake and shallows mourned us, under moon.