Love your poems.
Even when they leave a mess in the room
and despite nagging won’t clear up -
words unwashed and found under the bed.
Or when they won’t talk, though you know
something’s happened, that they feel
awkward about sharing.
Leave dirty pots in the sink,
or walk out of the house without locking up,
so anyone can walk in.
You come home, aghast, grateful
that nothing’s gone. And when they tell
you that they’ve fallen
in love again, and when they have
that song, and you say it’s just a crush,
but know you’re wrong.
still float moments below
the surface of the stream, stoked
by duckweed, flashing into stones
when my shadow falls on them.
of the old plum cart still beat across
the limestone bridge, in ruts of years
and years to come, please God -
whose name they use.
still sit like lace from my collar
in summer trees, but now they sing
at end of day, of you away,
gone with Fairfax.
I hear the King’s men are down from Leicester
and of slaughter. I remember you
in the meadow, swallowed by quiet grass,
eaten by soft sun as it ripened you,
drinking me, and I you.
This hill is still trying to kill people.
Even the steering wheel’s been murdered
in my hands, spinning my wheels
too soon, too far, too much, on ice
and I thin slice into an altitude of blackthorn.
Impossible gradient, a car ahead clings,
a local Everest, without rest.
It’s me against the beauty.
People used to be hanged here, in pairs
(visible from miles around). They’d watch
each other strangle, measuring
the length of their love in rope.
Another way, amidst the blackberry cliff face,
skylarks are below us and we crest the ramparts.
Prehistoric ghosts singing in the wind
and rhythm of the ditches. Another wartime,
two hundred miles from here, a German
bomber’s mauled. Can’t gain height, heads home,
teeth gripped crew quiet in their fear, sending
prayers down, for air. And so they go one hour.
And then they kiss their dancing girls goodbye,
think once more of lazy summer rivers,
a church clock, the first time they saw snow,
and meet the hill. Fly directly into it.
The landscape swallows sound
like an echo only
the trees are indifferent.
On the night bus the next morning,
somewhere near Hounslow,
I think of how good
you are together.
In the seat ahead, a man with skin
the colour of waterlogged sand,
smooth as a myth, nods
in soggy sleep. Wakes.
Asks, with syrupy breath,
have we gone through Chiswick?
And we have, of course.
And I think of how you touched
her arm, her hospital bracelet,
spun it on her wrist, fussing easily.
Listed tiny comforts for her.
And how she didn’t miss a word
as she spoke to me, and laughed,
and didn’t seem to notice,
yet noticed everything.
Pete, it seems you’re dead.
The news had missed me,
as if I’d walked in the room
just as it slipped out, through
another door. And I’m left
with the shape you cut
into memory - a week
of soaking green, lush
where the rain ran
into the eyes of the sheep
and we ate together.
Tell everyone -
Pete Morgan (turns out) is dead.
It didn’t even occur to me till
a friend said you might be,
it happens, apparently.
Your son did a run now you’re
gone and no longer two emails
away (one to find you, another
to say “You won’t remember Pete
but I have you wrapped
in my attic in a box that’s
moved with me for decades”.)
I didn’t know, eyes scrutinising
painted shelf I found you
after thirty years, slightly frayed,
but you looked good, looked gentle.
Still bearded, urging your words
round roadblocks. Little detonations.
One night, on the eve of an entire life,
I stayed up in a friction of love
and writing, all notebook and
hormones, till the sun smeared
itself again onto aching daybreak cattle,
until dark smelled again like light.
And you smiled, a writer’s kindness,
and I thought, he knows.
I see a chance of tea and for a pound I have it, no lid, in foam.
You turn back, uniformed black, to the rhythm of a blade
knocking seven bells out of a potato. It sounds like an asking.
Four centuries are baked into this moment.
Some left these shores on leaking ships, weeping statues rose
and now we’re here, below the broken cheeseburger light
and you don’t do glamour or a smile. Like an owner and her pet,
there’s a sense that you resemble the veg you reassemble.
But animals can be held with love, and your hands move like that too.
Speaking of touching a lover’s face. Of feeding him riches.
Moon of ageless unsoured
milk layered into a child’s painted sky.
Massive cinema screen, like an ambition.
Shape, pure coal-powered shape,
Empire’s stretch, extent, and abstract arc
of curving faded cable snakes.
Then filament, width of a fist, (no more)
inner ribs, holding tension, holding logic,
handling beauty like an agent
and body builder towers, sucked into night
in rivet-steroid steel. Asking energy
from the sky.
But not tonight. Now the quiet lamps
are looking at us, a singer smiling from a stage.
Handling her audience, staying forever, there for us.
Love is like touching,
perhaps is touching.
She must lift herself a little,
rise up a little. Snow drifts
her arms around his neck
(they were always the same
height, in other ways).
And what they’ve said
makes only a map to this valley
of close, swallowed, animal scent
of hair and skin. And the
orange battery of longing
glowing there, like an old star.
And he with his ticket,
and a turned collar, no longer
has boots of mud as he breathes her,
sucks her in. And she spreads.
And you can see her arrive
in his eyes, realised in touching.
Our worlds can touch
their glancing fingertips
as interlocking pieces -
though we are part of
other, deeper pictures.
We're canvas for those
pictures, on which others,
loved, rely and
We'll play out of our written
paths, pace out the path.
And do it well, for knowing this.
All I ever want to do
is build a pillow beneath
the high jump bar and be
the gentle raiser of that bar.
Or hold the torch in power cut,
then give it back, to growing hands.
Snail detective, mole advisor.
To remember their first time
peeps at four baby birds
balanced in the rose bush nest
and all curled up, madly.
I am reminded
suddenly, like a blessing.
A layer of trees, sweet filling to
the pan shaped bowl of hills.
And again, I have been here -
writing letters to myself,
at airports. Striding through,
I'm tooled up with words -
(Excuse me Madam, could we
take a look inside this poem?)
Next, big cinema screen view
to white concrete. A windsock
pulls, rubs the air. Board game
of tarmac arrows, banana bright,
spreads out to floating grass
where planes graze.
Noise and shape of the world,
that other planet,
one hundred and ten
minutes from here.
But there's a toddler too,
waving her arms about.
We are all about to become birds,
a little more grown
Do you ever check in to your own life?
That's life as hotel reception.
You drag your bags out of the taxi,
pay with strange coloured money,
and approach the desk,
notice the calm-cold air,
the ballroom floor, and sense dancing.
A small marble of sweat
spreads like melted butter
down the side of your face.
The clerk looks up.
Lines like brackets cuddle
her mouth as she spa-smiles -
pretty in a way that you,
creased like linen, never were.
Or maybe were, as a secret.
And in that moment, you'll know
if you can make yourself understood.
At the next table sits an American family,
well brought up from the roots and
up through the sap, you just know there’s
academia at the table in the way they sit in chairs.
They don’t speak French, but not like I don’t speak it.
I don’t speak it in awkward shame and failing -
like somehow I started the whole British Empire
on my own and I’m still working through that.
Though why I need to apologise to France
for that tangles me up like an old ball of string.
Je vous offre ma culpabilite, prix fixe?
No, they don’t speak it because they actually
never thought it would come up, not even in France.
And there’s me on my own looking up at the
birds as they speed open beaked into the last of
the day’s insects, and at the olive bulbs
above my head and the joue du porc below
and I'm thinking that I’m reading a book by a
Princeton Professor who won a nobel prize –
look it’s here behind the bottle of Minervois, for one.
They talk quietly, correctly, their words
are made of sandstone and ivy, tasted,
two types of appetite on display.
I want to go over and say “Look, I’ve read Rilke too”,
with a face I’d come up with to fit right in.
But they’d only smile a fulbright smile,
and know I hadn’t.
(It’s almost a sound).
Standing, holding railings
in her daydress that’s too like
a surgical gown, it flaps
anticipating a diary date
which can’t be far away now.
Though her diary’s mostly
empty these days.
She talks like the pigeons talk, I imagine,
soft and spare, like much of
what she needed to say she has
said. The very old all become
quiet, and this is why.
The river chases light, catches her
stare, stares back, looks away
like a parent concentrating
on something bigger like the sea.
Some mallards fight the current,
lose, drift like brilliant wreckage,
their plumage is the sun
through stained glass.
I think. The grass in my fingers.
A husband in Algiers, organs blown all
over the room, in black and white
by Pontecorvo, as chestnut skinned
filthy child on moped throws a parcel
through the bar window?
Or perhaps he simply tired of her,
fat and fatty with his children,
and one day just fucked the
olive eyed girl at the launderette,
then left, with all the Halliday albums
and a pair of cheap shoes?
There are swallows in the air,
swallows that live in castles,
and tiny cornflowers on her dress.
Being alone means needing to have an answer
to all the tiny anxieties that a lover, only a lover though,
can wipe away, just bleach away, so that all that was
left was the clean smell of love and knowing. Or make
them small like sand, or die off like insects leaving roses.
That’s what a lover is for, to be a voice, instead of the
invigilator’s cold clock-watching expectations.
To be a voice, instead of the voice you try not to hear,
that scorpion voice somewhere late in your room,
and there’s you, sheet pulled up to your chin, bare
bulb in your eyes till it makes blue bulb shapes
you can’t shake in the shaking you try to hide.
A lover can reach over, and kiss you hard and wet,
so honey runs inside and sweat shines the floor.
And the second hand of a clock stops, and
he can turn off the light and let you sleep in his smell.
And this, here, is all there is.
In the rose-rusted honeysuckle
fence, and in the teenagers
and in their touching, she his face,
as she sits in his lap. They play,
children on a pink stone stage,
in plain view as the plane trees
stand like a pulse over them.
And legionnaires across the way
smoke with their girl, sitting
stronger than they are,
smiling uncertain smiles.
The traveling breeze
touches our hair.
This is what love is like.
What am I photographing?
Twelve fifteen in the morning
and I’m walking the battlements
as floodlit bats spray vast shadows
on to walls the colour of hens eggs.
Walls sticky with longbow memories
and painted in guidebook pictures
of Cathar blood.
This place is the size and age
of the moon, as it squats full faced
below a moon. And I’m walking
in my private Elsinore, air pregnant
with summer, this ghost to
hurtling waiter-laden moped
carrying well tipped burden
to his girl, and to his child.
He nods, looks on
to a world no realer
than this, just
I’m centuries behind him.
What am I photographing?
This machine of age?
Celebrating death becoming
nothing, then crumbling, then
becoming space to touch,
to sink a shaky tourist's
palm onto rock beneath
butter coloured constellations?
And am I photographing
I know it and because
I want it and because
it knows me?
I seem to have wandered
back into the city.
Like water wanders
when forced up
and under pressure
then drops on nodding grass,
drawn along a gradient.
My gradient, my magnet, took me here.
Felt unwanted - no city wants you.
Cities, like cats, watch you from distance.
You push other elbows away, learn to love,
and to love the distant calling sirens
which say this is real,
this has blood,
And I love it. Even though
my garden’s tiny now,
it owns a thrush who
shouts at me, in dying light
from next door's spruce.
He tells me something simple,
while I sit and watch
for remembered stars,
in a deep shared sky above.
That first day Christ was, technically, dead.
From the oyster beach together, we were disappointed
that the docks hadn’t cut through the mist.
But you were smiling amongst coiled shells
scattered from the sky's daydream
and wet with a water that had washed the stars.
The second day, as light began to spill upwards
like a bursting blister, the faithful crashed
their car doors and I picked out
a single voice in song - varnishing the sand,
in welcome of the risen Christ, or maybe some a Druid sun,
concealed in blurred cloud. The voice damp with faith.
Later, in a blue gold light we saw the docks
hazed and rippling like a muscle on the horizon.
Man’s reappearance in the story, I thought.
The waves laundered the sand. Clean noise of moon
moved more shells into my hands, for children's bedside tables.
The children of other years, numberless lost years.
It’s time to stop sitting in churchyards
on lichen-rusted comforting benches,
while the gentle rain throws birdsong
like handfuls of seed, or like music
stolen from a room behind a door.
Even death dies. Wool merchants
have less to say now, the big men,
their granite air-eaten slabs collapse
outwards into a fire of new wet grass.
I want a church of the future.