On Native Soil



I carry in my head my mother’s soil:

A cup of her mind. We share the same loam,

Dark and rich like an evening’s coffee grounds.


I furrow the dirt: just as I comb my hair,

Brown as hers once was, I rake thoughts over,

Turning the old ground, letting earth taste air.


A drizzle of water, or wine; a sacrifice

Of spirits to the soil, so in that loam

A thought may germinate, a grain might grow.


I tend this modest garden, tenderly:

Reading to the roses, and the lilies,

Tales of those who wait beyond the fence;


And imagine, an intruder on my lands

Might one day take his ripe, firm gun and plant

An iron seed into my dreaming earth.

Thin Talk



Every time your lips move, it’s the same

Cheap cuts. You serve a gruel which seeps

Right through your teeth in trickles. But where’s the beef?


With words so thin, you talk no taste: no pound

Of flavoured flesh; no marbled slab of tongue.

You hand me this cold broth. A bowl without sound.



This is a poem which really needs to be said slowly, out loud, so you can savour the dissatisfaction rolling over your tongue. If someone fails to talk straight – to chew the fat, to sink their teeth into it – spit it out. 




Though we might share a breath, stood toe to toe,

You glance about and dream my place were empty:

And though I left deep footfalls in the snow,

You’d overstep me.


You do not see the very signs you ought to.

Have you observed the air wring branches out?

You would not feel the wind unless it fought you,

And see it less, I doubt.


It’s not her death, but in the creaking stair

Through which the lover stirs our slumber most.

You’ll overlook a wife who isn’t there,

But not a ghost.





This Absent Itch



A bruise as red, as blood is rich;

A sore that, when in drink, I lack;

I fell into the brink, from which

Not even ghosts come back.


Her touch was gone: this absent itch

Would brush my neck and aching back.

The rash would raise, the skin would twitch,

And bruises clouded black.


A hurt as rich, as wine is rich;

A burn which even hell would lack;

I fell into a death from which

Not even ghosts come back.



Hard Water



In the new town, the water tastes different. Even

The rain.


The shower leaks, drumming impatiently

Its fingers on the tiles,


Leaving a copper tang in the air, a freshly

Dug grave smell,


Clean as a slab. Toweling down, the body still

Slick from the soap


That just won’t lather, a trickle crawls into

A parted sigh on the lips.


Its bead melts there. Curious, how its potent



Tastes of distance, limestone, whiteness,

And the rain.



Graceless Saviour



I’m nothing special. My life is all on loan.

Take a river fish, and make of its tight

Silvered movements and its leaf-like bones

Five thousand savouring thoughts:


Take one dry crust, crumble all its ashes

Into the wind, and feed the barren soil.

Have mercy on your friend’s disloyal kisses,

A sucker for martyrs, whatever style


A dozen men would like. And that’s enough.

Once water has been splashed around

From my brazen glass, dry in the mouth,

Though I am no saviour, you’ll taste the wine.


It takes no grace, no heavenly design

To help mute men to see, and blind men sing.

A Thing of Fearing


girl in forest.jpg


A beast of claws and whispers

In the forest waited there,

And reached its jaws to kiss her

And it grasped her golden hair.


Yet it was a thing of fearing,

But a shaded whisperer.

It was only willows, leering:

And it was no match for her.




Short little nursery rhyme: most monsters are imaginary, just shadows under the trees. And they are no match for us.