• He Holds His Bottle In Both Hands

    He holds his bottle in both hands. His dog

    Is by him. Blankets. From the shoulders down

    He is massy as a stone; like a stone

    He has the task to shrug off wind, the rain

    That eats him drop by drop. Dirt occludes him,

    Dirt impervious to rain has been ground

    Into the ground of him; he knows, so he

    Places the cup before him for the coins.

    Once villages with plague did much the same.

    Beyond the door nailed shut, the lintelled coffin

    Hatch crossed in red, whose angel was absent

    To halt the destroyer that hopped the threshold;

    Beyond the path (green with three days’ grass);

    Beyond the houses and the sprawl of the disease

    They found a stone with a hollow, a cup

    In its bone, like a newborn infant’s skull.

    They filled the cup with water, left coins there;

    The traders came and took them in exchange.

    Left bread, such medicine their science could afford.

    So the village, closed, hingeless as a stone,

    Still maintained a commerce with the world.

    They went so far and no farther: they shared,

    So as not to meet, a mutual orbit.

    He holds his bottle in both hands. He raddles

    His blankets round him, strokes the dog. Then

    He dips his fingers in the cup, feels the copper

    Laid there to bait silver; they come back wet.

    Winner, 2nd prize overall, Ware Open Poetry Competition 2015

  • Three Stromness Acrostics


    Forward and back roof-raddled the cat,

    Round and around rolled the moon,

    And Venus and Mars in a carafe of stars

    Noodled the night’s afternoon.

    “Kaleidoscope cat, my syrup, my fat,

    Liminal lynx” – said the moon – “my love

    I see that your eye waxes, wanes, as do I,

    Now a crescent, now plump as a dove.”

    “Render me puss, oh answer me this:

    Or my dark or my light find you nice?”

    “Ah – I like you best when you are half-dressed.

    Dim – for the sake of the mice.”

    Gray’s Noust

    Grim sea, ink on this wild night,

    Rise. Wind, prepare a nib, an edge of

    Air and frost. Black sea, come. Write

    Your secrets on the lapped lids of the town –

    Satisfactions only for the birds.

    Name your mysteries, your underwater

    Ossuaries, the hug and knell where lipless mouths

    Urge a second deluge. Confess all, waves:

    State safe your deepest soul in midnight ink.

    The coming day will clean the slates, unread.

    Brinkie’s Brae

    Below, a segment on a patterned top,

    Runs the town. Behind, hill-hurdled, the Atlantic. What

    Is the hand that spins us but the sky, and,

    Now, this dawn, the Spring-appointing air? Winter

    Kept things close, stilled the thrumming cells with sheeted

    Ice. That age is over. The island stretches,

    Enters the uppermost sun-dabbled sea of sleep

    Spreads skein of sky of wing, and lunge of lung.

    Broad sphere, you share the moon’s illusion:

    Regarded at horizon, seeming greatest.

    Ah, but – between itself and its own limit runs the eye in


  • One Blow Breaks…

    One blow breaks these floorboards, shows the bones

    Where the dead damped down, bravely or morose,

    To be built upon. All graves are shallow:

    Worm on barrowed worm, dead on dead laps storying;

    Apartments, tower blocks as in water,

    Shown in their inverse, sinking, tend their quiet

    Occupation to the cold core of all

    Beginning; and we on the lowest floor.

    There are clouds in the crawlspace. The soft rain

    Eases, balling its fists between the bricks,

    Downward. All graves are shallow. Bald of a clock

    Still the walls show times, the years’ slippage

    Into disorder – windows seamed with mould

    And autumn leaves loose in the citadel.

    Winner, sonnet prize, Ware Open Poetry Competition 2015

  • Invocation

    The garden has been sown with dragon’s teeth.

    Summer brazens through the mulch of spring,

    Itself the chewed stuff of autumn. Beneath

    The flowers draw their blades. Trees cast leaves, fling

    Upon the lower world their cuckoospell

    Of shadow, shuddering the pollen. Warm snow.

    Thousand-coasted, million-mated world, swell –

    For the year’s yolk is in its overflow

    And over-golden, too big for any shell.