Fate’s Catalyst

You were Fate’s catalyst and now the moon roars
Out your name. The ground has shifted;
Tectonic changes;

The leaves have already fallen.
Nothing here can move quickly.
Constant rain. Perpetual drizzle.

This is the climax of brooding sky:
The world in an arthritic cast.
I sink deeper into my chair

And into nowhere, remembering
Our epoch opening like an atrium.
I sit alone. I separate

The night’s black veil to watch
A rabble of stars that slowly appear,
Submerged and drunk and melancholy

Tumbling out of the dark.
I think of you as though in seance
And our last night rises up from the air.

I have never heard a more
Honest and open cry
Than the rising howl you made that night:

Our last night, when I held your hand in the rain
And you held not just mine back,
But everything together –

And I never even realised,
All that time that I held you,
That you were a moment

That I let fall into nothingness.
You were the planet’s core, you were magma-glue,
And that’s why the happiness stuck to us.

If it was raining then the sky did not bother your tears.

Inheritance

Guarding like a totem, as my remnant,
His highlander-bottle keeps watch:
The paternal inheritance:
The whiskey-hollow harmonic echoes

From the neck of a dry riverbed.
But the bottle-man stands tall, peripherally, on the shelf;
A blind gaze, as solemn as one last breath.
He attracts dust while his old notes nestle

In the ears of the dead, captured
Only in the memory of ashes,
So that together they remember, pulseless:
The booming, stubbled laughter, the gulping thirst.

He watches it lurk in the veins.
The path wood-carved in the family tree
To be repeated like a shared prophecy –
My birthmark from the first schism.

Only rose-falls close the lifelong call.
Too soon we dull with Sunday bells tolling
To decay with our unshakeable faults,
Bearing them like gifts for an afterlife.

The Ballet

The light collapsed with the weight of dusk
As we went to watch the ballet.
We only ever went that one time.
A special performance. In fact
I had never seen ballet before
Or since – it wasn’t me. But you,
You had. You loved it, lived it,
Regularly. It was a childhood dream.
However you had missed the chance;
Apparently “You have to start when you’re young”.
The opportunity had departed
Like a missed train. No second chances.

But I remember that night because
It was the first time I found a bad evening.
We had left the bedroom overturned,
Littered with arguments over nothing,
But your barbs were like arrows
Craving the sight of a Sebastian.

Suddenly you didn’t seem like you –
Or at least, not one that I knew.
It wasn’t. The first of many.
A temporary distance.
Your face clamped shut to barricade you in:
Your voice hidden as a pearl.
You described it as your mind becoming
Untrustworthy.

We arrived and entered the theatre
Quietly. It echoed like a church
Without the crosses. Hushed voices.
It was already not going well;
We were always late and lost.
We searched for our places in the dark,
Repeating our seat numbers
Like the combination to a safe,
Relaying up and down the aisle
As though hunting for lost keys,
Until the right row finally appeared –
We had somehow lost a letter from the alphabet.

We sat down.

The ballet teetered on the precipice.
The curtains quivered like lips
Of the Red Sea. We awaited a Moses.
I tried to pry open the silence
But every time I spoke, I saw you
Shrug away my words
Like they were only air.
The lights dimmed further.
The music opened floodgates.

Dancers poured out from the wings,
Spilling onto the stage in a torrent
Of song-spun pirouettes, soaring jumps,
Blurring into more than humans.
Their black feathered costumes combining
And undulating like returning birds.

The room rumbled with awe.
The air swelled with approval.
The audience reinforced grace.
And I didn’t understand a thing –
Nothing more than childlike-mesmerised;
Open mouthed, as though held
By a magician’s watch.
Occasionally I tried to whisper
Something meaningful, non-elevator.
Mostly I blinked forwards.

You understood like it was home.
Awakening gradually,
Eyes like sparked coals,
The dancers pulled you out from your depths
And lifted you up like one of them
To the surface on the tide of red velvet.
Your face beamed; sunflower joy;
Turning to find the sun
Just as you couldn’t imagine
That it would ever reappear.

Eventually the curtains closed
And I found your smile, resuscitated
Inside of some clothes
That you don’t usually wear.

Our Winter

That winter looked too good on you.
It adored you, like a mother –
Birth certificate confusion.

The summer was almost obvious.
Winter was better. Lurking.
You could camouflage in the cold.

But it was also something more profound:
Months followed you, mirroring.
The skies seemed to shiver.

A world hiding in hibernation
While I watched your cheeks blister;
Dimpled red apples, licked by frost.

The tarmac crunched like rubble underfoot
As you spun away, plucking out the air
With the premonition of blossom

Concealed somewhere deep in your smile.
You knew the eventuality of change
And I opened each day like a gift.

God. You were gut-punch beautiful.
In the devotion of those short, dark days
Nothing could stop you.

But like the snow, tumbling
Down altitude’s umbilical cord,
It all soon would be fallen.

River Hymns

That evening was a special place,
Carried to me by the river. I hung
My feet in the water like fish hooks
And let the sun writhe overhead, turning

The riverbank the dappled colour
Of late July and the underside of leaves.
Heat blared on from the apex of the day,
Continuing to break records like twigs,
And so, the city stood still; an open oven.

But I had my transient oasis,
Caesarean cut through a concrete belly.
I had founded an emptiness, like Columbus,
And declared it all mine.

Leaning back, I was content as a lion’s roar.
No phone. No pen. Just my wet soles
And an orchestra of crickets and birdcalls.

The church bells tolled, soft and hourly,
Telling Time about the clandestine
In sporadic pulsars. Darker, water flowed
Towards entropy and sunset.

Light on the surface; the debris of day.
Twisting past, swerving wild through earth,
The river wrestled with its current like a vein
Of beauty inside the genius of madmen.

It was rare. A postcard perfect moment.
I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to change.
And so I repeated some lines like mantras
To prolong the mirage that poured past
As though lost and happy in a labyrinth.


Sorry for the brief hiatus, I’m currently enjoying my last couple of weeks in Italy at the family home in the Umbrian hills; it’s lovely, but also like a home for recovering addicts: no phone, no internet, no contact with the world outside the village walls. A good place for trying to capture some semblance of the Sublime and bygone eras, however. Enjoy the poetry.

Open Balcony Doors

Open balcony doors, flung wide like arms.
Not a cloud. I invite in the sun;
The kitchen plunged into a bright atrium.
An engorged sink, filled with daytime.
A sunbath, basking.

The curtains play in a breeze
As light as their white linen.
Hung like two tall nightclub bouncers,
They billow with world-breath
And flicker into happy surrender-flags.

The summer seeps into my bones
And heat steadily sneaks into the home –
An all-conquering fifth column;
The thick, gluey air, heavy like marble.

My throat becomes dry, slowly
Parched like a starved riverbed
While the room coughs as a dusty attic
Finally opened up to the ablution-sky.

This seasons eats movements.
Clears my schedule. Scorches it.
Mirage-like and doused,
The days become their mercury air

And outside, warmth beckons like a lover.
Unconscious footsteps. I plod.
Unthinking baby steps.
To the sun-calls, the light-falls;
Each ray like a siren’s lasso,

Pulling me out onto the balcony pulpit.
The crow’s nest. The pier.
My deep breaths emulating explorers,
I stitch myself into the simmering.

Immobilised in the season’s shadow.
Nature is held hostage, tied and left to yellow;
The grass dies, the trees blister.

I gaze on for months, burning slightly,
Mesmerised in the cauldron-bulb
By the flexing of the strong sun’s eye.

Revelations

A blue dawn, summering storm
Wakes you with a clatter
Of colliding clouds and sideways rain.
But then you look down
And see her,
In a dream sanctuary

Between the sighs and the sunrise.
And suddenly, sleepily
Your legs, arms, fingers,
Thoughts are intertwined
In the disappearing night;
Coiled around each other
Like loved-up snakes

While she continues to be
Safe and self-contained.
Oblivious. Twitching subconscious
Words on the cusp of her lips.
Tired eyes tightly shut
Like two imprinted, inky little stamps.

You are not affecting
And she recuperates
In the night like a deprivation chamber;
Inhabiting parallels.
You keep watch like a guard dog.

Her hair shields her face
From you
As a separation,
Like a wall of palms,
And she becomes more miscellaneous
The more you look.
It could be someone else

Again. Bury the feelings
Deep like a guilty bone.
You smell the morning breath
Brewing in her cauldron mouth,
Watch her limbs out-stretched
Like a content child;

She is often beautiful.
You decide to retry sleep
And redemption,
Covering your bodies
Under the ghost-thin sheet,
Laid dead like pharaohs,
Waiting for the inevitable alarm

To unveil you.
With your heavy
Hands, you hold her
Close like an undeserved gift,
Like something that hasn’t been broken.

Scars

We showed our scars for the first time
And shared the wounds like love letters,
Revealing some of the ways we were marked forever.
Our damaged bodies pulled through the years
Like scuffed toboggans, baring fading remnants
Of ageing hurt, the colour of fine red wine.

I went first. A cut through my cheek
That slits my face faintly with a sickle curve
Reaching in and around, playing hide and seek
In the allure of a sanctuary thorn bush.
My cheek flapping open like a new mouth.

You went next. A sunken bite mark arm:
The memory of mousetrap-dog jaw –
A small dog, you reassure me, no pit bull –
Just a colour-blind limb like a juicy bone.
A family pet, the size of your powerlessness.
The wound went deeper than mine

So I returned serve, my hand tentatively
Sliding further down my body
To pull up the bottom of my shirt
And expose a keyhole belly slit
And a young boy, curled under his bed
Like a foetal, dead caterpillar.
Wailing and dog-whimpering
With tremors and appendix aftershocks;
A body like a burst, useless organ.
But you reached out, touched it.
Read the raised, twitching belly scar like Braille.

You pushed your fingers into my hand
And guided me into your mouth.
You pulled your bottom lip down like a drawbridge.
I pressed my fingertips into the pink
Hiding behind your lip. It was bumpy.
Like grit clumps, rock lumps. A van velocity
Embedded with tarmac impact;
Your body skating over the concrete
Like a pebble skipping across water.

Your tongue didn’t flicker any words. I saw
Hospital beds, IV drips. You held my wrist
And aimed next for knee cartilage –
Gently, gently, careful. The glistening
Skin like a surgically cut crossword
Of incisions and hard answers.
A bystander telephone call mapped out.
Your mother’s phone hitting the floor
As cobweb echolocation,
Searching for her baby. You said nothing
And I had no worse scars.

You said more nothing and hid more hurt
In other places that I could never see.

Voices

I want dull, full-fat vowels
And my words like hammers.
I want to hit you about the eyes
With a broad Yorkshire birth-twang
And let it resound like a vow
In the inside of your head.

Nothing refined or polished.
I want real: I want earthy.
Not planned hendecasyllables
Or genome-mapped love sonnets –
Give me shaman-muttered rituals,
A world with peripheries.

And yet the acid-wash BBC RP
Clings to me like wet denim.
I hear myself slowly moulded
By a coca-colonisation
That restrains my conversation,
Suppresses a guttural tongue;
The inexorable pull
Of the next, wet rung of the ladder.

I reach for my Northern drawl
And find a voice that is air-locked,
Dolled-up, maimed and cut-glass,
When I want simple like cut grass.
My identity drummed down, beaten back,
Vague, beige, imprecise, unmoored –
Like a touch of gentrifying plague.

However the child-sounds are still there.
Like hidden birthmarks.
A lurking bloodline moor-wolf
Waiting to be found, nurtured
And drag me back down
To the autochthonous, muddy roots.

To the urban grey, the cultural downplay,
The howling wail of a sectioned city;
Sanguine heather, tobacco grass,
Crumpled-paper hills buckled at the knees
Sighing ice-white vein streams.
But now, it’s at my feet in a mongrel heap:
Decaying Viking grunts and growls: fuck:

Inject them back in, give me origins
In my throat thudding like a jugular,
Caustic verbs like errant sparks,
Burn down dry wooden shacks of poetry
With a pyromaniac pen and knuckle cracks.

Love, love, love.
Come, step back together –
Just to look, watch, bask
With our charcoaled hands like iconoclasts
As the house we built is engulfed
With licks of tongue-fire.
Let it all burn in a bonfire
Until there is nothing left but sulphur
And the stone heart on the pyre.

Smell the smoke. Hear the wet dirt vocals.
Feel the charred, ancestral gasps of the locals
And the low groan of forgotten gods.
Here I am. Hear – I am
With you, too. I didn’t do it alone.
You are with me like an accomplice;
It falls only because you give it sound.

You see, we need to strip it down
Until we have flayed the flesh pink
And hit granite.
Each page a flint, rocky outcrop
And each poem rediscovered bones,
Architectural bones,
Ajar like a skull’s open-mouth jaw.

This then is a reclamation.
And when the fire-fallowed lines
Have plunged down like mines
Reaching for something pure,
In the flickering ash and cinders
We can gaze at the smouldering
Words: ripe with original sin and true-raw.