• 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 who 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 an egg,

    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.


    (Second Prize, Ware Open Poetry Competition 2015)

  • From Magnus Cathedral

    This thrifty landscape shoulders off time.

    Bone-born, wave-borne, island,

    Dawn-draped and deep-drawn, emerge –

    Begin. Sea roll, roil round your rope, billow

    Round the salt hard sail of the rock. The land,

    A keel at every point, rises.

    Beneath a caul of cloud and well-fed wind – wind

    Big shouldered, able almost to have the boats

    To the marble pillowed wall-sleeped garden up

    And shells, fish bones, sea grass on the highest hills –

    The yet un-sutured skull, fostering the paths

    That file among the crack-joints never to seal.

    The island, born ancient, will die a bairn

    Swallowed by its sea-father, and sky, mother,

    Lowered, keening, finds no foothold but sea

    Sea where the birds skiff on the wind’s forward edge

    Sea where the rocks, orange and black, tigered into the water,

    Sea from edge to edge, till the years fold themselves up.

    *

    Lidless houses point. They accuse the heaven

    Which stole their roofs; now sky laughs through them

    Like a child to mischief. Hills hunch under

    Cloud that rubs the lightning in its palms

    And sends rain, you, upon an earth hawked

    To catch the birth of you, the little murder

    Closing the path shot dimly, conception

    To delivery in one fierce minute.

    The islands wear their white skirts of sea silk.

    The roads gone under glass, the mountain

    Weather-wigged a judge-in-stone,

    And sun thieves his hop from garden to garden;

    Now all speaks the earth’s slow grind

    And ancient chemical wisdom.

  • Fever

    Draped sleep a wet skin over me,

    when full moon frothed and pearled the hill

    of my body with angled frost,

    then snuffled my spirit in its lairv

    that could not speak.

    Scraped dreams an axe-wing over me,

    like a wind with teeth, our worm’s glory,

    and my splintered bone-health deeped

    down the aching haunch-meat broken

    at ninety degrees.

    Knocked love upon the cupboard of my chest

    and called my spring-heeled jackbox heart

    to come – my lover led me, stung

    my dream-sprite down the fever’s flue

    to a floor of bright and babbling blood

    to lay its seed.

  • Road to Damascus

    He has been led astray by a new star.

    Alone, he has wandered the roadless space

    Where the rock slips under foot. He is learning

    To walk in the world again, after the strike

    That blinded all that was both past and secure.

    All names wait. He’s clay again. The light

    Shows new dimensions, previously lacked –

    The egg of all he thought he was has cracked,

    Producing a serpent.

    Bright, all too bright

    Are many blindnesses. Sure, all too sure

    Many trackless ways are taken. So, like

    A refugee, his torment soothes him: yearning

    For what’s been left behind, his nesting place,

    His shells. He cannot bear to wander far.