Personal work


After he died, she worked in a charity shop
and cheerfully volunteered to have
a fling with the sub-postmistress.

Had she won the Lottery,
it would not have changed her life:
he had left her “comfortable”
she had no use for holidays
and she knew she could never have had him back
neither for love nor money.

It’s as if everyone in the village
had picked up their lives
from the shelves and networks
and taken to the hills, fled;
where they stood has turned red.

Soon, it will be dark
and under its cover
we will repatriate ourselves in their place
and laugh at the solemn moon
who witnessed it all
but drew the curtains
and said nothing.


He only came to double her glazing
but stayed to fix the holes in her life
where the weather crept in
and played havoc with her self-esteem.

With his spirit level,
he converted her loft to a pagan faith,
and rendered her speechless with his crazy paving;
steadily, he raised her pain threshold
and helped to cement relations
with her family and friends.

In the fullness of time, he found himself
taking root in her vegetable patch:
now she will live happily ever after
making soup with his bones.

(A World History of Late Arrivals Since Last Wednesday)

The headlights penetrate the empty rooms
of a cottage, unshuttered, but closed to the night,
and so don’t illuminate a girl
draped like Lauren Bacall
against the Hollywooden gloss of the door,
cool as can be and waiting
and waiting and waiting for me.

How I could have hoped she’d still be there I have no idea;
but this stage has been dark for all of seven hours
and she’s more than given up on me,
reading into my non-appearance
A World History of Late Arrivals Since Last Wednesday.

My car whispers that it’s time to move on:
I crunch the gears and climb the hill
and put the reluctant distance between us.
The miles that pass have nothing to say
on the disappointment I feel
at the wheel of this, my last chance saloon.


The skin of her teeth
brings out the philanthropist in me
but the seat of her pants
drives me to despair.

I don’t mind a close shave
but that’s too close for comfort.

Having staggered to the gutter,
I can only see the stars:
no virgins, twins, crabs or bulls
but the sweet constellation of your face,
the smile on me – how you smile on me! –
that’s made me too drunk to walk
a straight line back into any other life.

The ladybird on the table lamp
pauses and counts the cost
of the spots on her back.
There’s no such thing
as a gentlemanbird as
far as she’s concerned;
better to flex her wingcases
and fly away home,
whatever home might bring.


The brother I never had
would have died before me
to show me how it’s done,
like sharpening a penknife
or vaulting a gate;
but in his demonstration
of this dying art
there would have been
an undying truth:
I could never have done it
as well as him.

Thunder and lightning hit the streets and –
those sodium cowards who never permit
the dead to sleep nor, for that cold, dark matter,
the living – the street lights
blink on and off in useless surprise.

The church bells ring all four quarters
and a solitary, redundant one, as if to compete,
but the thunder steals the show:
which of these the voice of God?

I know she hates the lightning,
fears the ghastly flare that bleaches the fields
beyond the empty framing windows:
I should have been there
but cannot be.

So we are linked only by the jagged rips of light
and the wet lanes under the prowling thunder;
keeping low, the heart caught in the crossfire,
the faithless, like me, are prised from their beds
to sit, to watch, to admire, to regret.

The storm, a caravan of circus tricks, passes on;
the laid waste streets lie scrubbed and clean,
but not me, not me.


Poor, poor sweet suicide girl
they never saw it coming
but I did, I did:
I saw something lost in your eyes
never looking likely to be found
and the sad and sorry samaritan guy
was taking another call;
so you crept away to your private precipice
where only heaven could see you
and you made your amends incarnate.


In a hotel room, on the other side of an ocean,
I imagine myself retiring to bed, local time;
the starched white bathrobe falls to the floor
and I pull back the covers
to find you
’ve eaten the management’s goodnight chocolates –
yours and mine –
as a prelude to a night in executive class.

You unwrapped my twisted paper,
you pulled apart my foiled wrapping,
you sank your teeth through my hard coating
and you sucked out my soft centre.

What are you going to devour next?


She never knew what hit her
and it was over
as soon as it began, almost:
a blinding, startling moment
that pushed her over the edge,
from madness to reason.

Some people get all the luck.


She plays the cello
"like an angel"
to quote the Daily Telegraph;
but I can tell you something
they won't be publishing
in this week's pages:
when I see her on the stage,
playing that thing
held so softly between her thighs,
the music stirs thoughts in me:
thoughts that are distinctly News of the World.


They find his shoes and a pile of clothes
just above the high tide line,
the sins of his footprints
long since washed away
by the absolving water.

It is assumed he has drowned,
a fool to the foaming waves,
a bold, if pathetic farewell
written on the sea.

So they never see the naked swimmer emerge
after the waters had broken,
borne by the current down the coast;
he dresses in the fresh life he’d stashed
behind a fisherman’s shed
and walks off to a place
where he might, some day,
enjoy his long, last love
aloud and allowed.


He forgets to ask
before she leaves this morning
whether it was the Muscadet,
the pillow, or the heart
that did the talking last night:
last night, when she decided.

There is still wine in the glass
but who will drink it now?

WHEN WE FIRST MEET (a window poem)

WHEN YOU SENT (a window poem)