Tuesday, 31 July 2012

On The Night Flash Gordon Flew Down Our Street

On the night Flash Gordon flew down our street I was lying in the bath considering how the bus company has got it all wrong this year. It being summer, they're running open topped double deckers. The calender might say July but you can count the hours of sunshine we've had on the fingers of the one hand belonging to a man who has had an accident working in a sawmill.

The bath was deep and the room was filled with a steam cloud. I reached up and ran my finger through the vapour that coated the window. I still couldn't see anything: a grey fog had filled the street and was trying to find its way in through the window to bond with the cloud that I'd created indoors.

Next thing I know is a buzzing coming down the street like an antique electric shaver and a rattling sound like empty cans strung to the rear bumper of a wedding car.

The fog grew deeper. I sank under the water like a child trying to hide under the bedsheets when a mad axeman decides to creep very slowly upstairs. If only I'd looked out!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Durable Friends

Lifted over into flight, sent packing into daydreaming
the swiping of a page revealing, showing a princess of snow sitting
in an orange room for a time trying out the sleekest of feeling
clambering along the gouging pliers of these hand-held paper stairs
for 8 steps until the boards zigzag like idiot fingers across the slowness
of a white sky made of deep metal layers that shine through the windows
that turn device: become screen in a broken day of durable friend
gadgets running the painted century of this, our house, replete with words
where the white tries blazing white street letters in the must have flowers.
A century left before we reach the deep of the car's occupants in already
blackly understood words, eyes of the decades hugging on to all it's got
this weekend with wallpaper sunshine friends trying to read the
sometime silhouette that seems to decide in time the very
tombstone buildings too deep in the morning sun.
The damn cut weighs Shandyisms away into whiteness across the gaze
fixing in its support but the whiteness can't smoke a message back to the action
that takes the old you with it to where the blazing, metal-cast occupants dream as
open letters are considered in the pebble streets where the first story sends even
lines of sense through cabins in yards where low-glare paintwork trains are all
about transference from here to there about the knees of a multi-device bird flying
through a city that invented screwdrivers demarcated by the whiteness in its mimicry.

The Street Fire

The road is burning where the traffic divides.
Black smoke coils into the air.
Patches of black shining around the fire.

A red taxi pulls up to wait for the lights to change.
The driver douses the flames
with mineral water from a plastic bottle.

The smoke clears.
The lights change.

Everything, the street,
the cars, shifts
back into focus.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Things Are Starting To Look Up

I look down on the room. I'm very far away. Floating, but still attached to the scene
below that keeps getting smaller and smaller. I'm connected by this egg-shell
coloured cord that's drawn onto the air like an animation in an old cartoon.

A woman sits in an armchair. She has hair and glasses that make her look like Thelma
from Scooby Doo. Her glasses, the lenses, are made of cross-hatched lines that alternate
between orange and blue.

And another presence in the room. I can't make out what or who it is.

What I see is a test tube of fine glass. So fine you can barely see it. It's very tall.
I could stand inside it. You only know it's there because of the soft barley sugar
colours where the glass curves to form its invisible dome.

Thelma talks as if the tube isn't there.

I cry out as the cord finally snaps and
I drift upwards like a helium balloon
when the string slips through
the fingers of a child.

I don't think anyone's looking up.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

It's 05:28 By This Beach Pebble

Have you ever woken with a nicotine hangover?
My hand travels on autopilot, comes up with the phone,
the sleekest gadget I've ever owned.

Smooth in the hand like a beach pebble.

Check the time: 05:28 in white digits.
Time seems to have slowed down.

Oceans of time for this beach pebble phone.
The nicotine hangover?
I'll soon put that right.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Where One Moment Ends

There's a smell of graveyards and weddings in the watery-green perfume coming from the flowers set on the white table cloth where a candle burns to bathe the walls of this great hall in an antique light. The guests are wrapped in fresh clothing: some wear extras, strange adornments that serve no purpose like cocktail parasols. They still wear the electrical smell of rain and a third of them are still at that age where they're not sure where moment ends and another begins.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Signals Geiger Clicking In Antique Headphones

signals sent from far-off dreamscapes
set soft sounds Geiger clicking
in antique headphones.
they linger to haunt
the mornings.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Fennel Phone

Her paper breath all piney with tombs
fills this phone of fennel coloured plastic.
Sets her thoughts pouncing on waters.

Greenish crystals sparkling in the roads
filling the knowing of moment,
the knowing of movement.

Monday, 23 July 2012

White Beach Conference

Clock-face like a moon. Big hands pointing to some time.
Thunder of a distant plane. Trails of sound travelling to some place.
Maybe somewhere tropical. White beaches. More likely,
a conference. Could be going anywhere
while my head’s in the clouds
going nowhere. Somewhere.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


He was wearing a long robe when his fingers started to break.
It started in the tips. They ever so slowly started to open, crackle with fine fractures
that grew like lines forming in baked earth.

Then his hands started to hatch:
branches burst forth.

They were very black and covered in silvery fluid like the sac
that protects the pod of a new born kitten.

There may have come a rending in his chest as it split open and further foliage –
for the growth that was his hands had already advanced into the final stages
of high summer – unfolded and grew like a sped up film of a seed germinating,
streaking tendrils towards the crust of the soil where the green grass grows.

Saturday, 21 July 2012


Sky like a square of grease-proof paper banded over the mouth of a Kilner jar.

The cattle-like bellow of a ship’s horn. Low deep rumble, three long blasts followed
by the mice squeak of a fast wheel.

Out on the road, the long highway heads north.
A blue convertible. Another membrane stretched down tight on the three occupants
who sweat like cheese.

There’s an etiquette, isn’t there, to driving a car or being passenger.

Car manners.

If you are at the wheel you have a job: you’re the host, the master of the rolling ceremonies.

Similar responsibilities lie with the passenger. You have to know how to behave once invited into this travelling room.

In an office, far from these things red, pink, yellow Post-It notes stuck down on PCs,
desks, files of paper.

The words mean nothing. You


while you make the best of things as shapes like tadpoles move under the membrane of sky.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Elastic Cat

You have to admire the way a young cat expends its energy.
This grey cat sweeps its tail and pounces on a fly.
Misses and leaps trying to follow.

Probably my favourite cat expression is the pre-attack face.
The eyes seem to change shape and the elastic body
just quivers with pent up motion that will be,
probably, unleashed at any moment.

When we were kids there were these plastic things
that resembled animals and cartoon characters.
They came on springy poles and there was a sucker
that you had to wet with spit.

You'd push them down and seal a vacuum. Then wait,

wait for the spit to dry which would cause
the vacuum to break then

leap like a salmon, dig paws into the rug hanging
from the washing line. The rugs starts swaying
and the cat holds on, arches its neck trying
to fathom what's going on, hanging
upside down like a child on a tyre swing sliding
along the cable picking up speed.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Strange Stones

Verges starred with penumbras of cow parsley.
Paper bag discarded in a flyblown bus shelter
near a bridge where strange stones,
polished by the water and wind,
lie on a river bank like exquisite
psychedelic coals or jewels
dropped from a dragon's belly.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Close Analysis Of Those Difficult Years

When I grew into seventeen not much happened except that I had plenty of change for the coffee machine and I met a girl who was tall as a cigarette with smouldering eyes.

Things only really picked up when I fell off the precipice of being eighteen.

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His voice was as clear as the landscape
he came from: a place of green hills
where legendary battles were fought
by men on white horses.

Each day he headed into the hills
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If you happen to see him,
please let me know.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Business Deal With Boris Karloff

It was a simple business arrangement: in return for mowing the lawn, I'd get Frankenstein.

I'd seen him hanging from a ceiling. Black suit too short in the leg and arm. White collar in a style that Boris Karloff wouldn't have known. A quiff of black hair and the outrageous forehead dome. His skin, Hulk green. The thin thread of a noose to hang him on.

It was a big lawn. The grass was nearly up to my knees. But I kept on going until the monster of my desire was almost within reach.

Sometimes I stopped in my work. Looked through windows to see what was in the rooms. Dormitories for boys who were safely far away. On one wall, a sky sized poster of John Lennon. The word Why? in large Arial font.

As soon as the payment was in my hand I hotfooted it to Woolworths. Pinkish tiles in the foyer. Tubular hand rails made from a coppery metal. Very smooth from years of shoppers coming and going as we all do in the end, following a thin thread dressed in our best suits.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Pilgrimage

We're sitting by the river.
The evening goes on forever.
Conversation turns to how we
should mark the evening.
That damned river.
The bugs and flies. Gnats.
Don't know why none of us thought to fish in it.
Once King floated a chair on it.
An old rocking chair and King
sat on the water
as if he was at home
in his parlour.

It's King who's talking now.
Says, why don't we cycle there?

The words comes rushing
in like sea singing the shingles.

Picture a string of bicycles.
Old-time bikes.
Sit up and beg
tradesmen's bikes.

A pilgrimage
of sorts to the stones
that never happened.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle

Piece by piece, over a period of days, the neighbours dismantled their home. He didn't think much about it until a piano travelled out of the drive on the back of a trailer. The piano was strapped under a piece of blue tarpaulin like a corpse being discretely carried away from the scene of an accident.

Then the visits started.

At odd times, when his mind was a thousand miles away, the doorbell would ring.

He could never get used to it.

She was a dark haired woman with glasses and a foreign accent. At first he thought she was German. 'No, no', she said. 'I am from Switzerland.' Would he like some bowls? They had too many and couldn't carry them all the way to Switzerland. Sure, he said.

The first bowls were white and made of thick clay and he couldn't look at them without thinking of plastic spoons and baby food. He had no idea what he was going to do with them.

They shared a porch. It was a sun trap that had an old-fashioned smell that he couldn't quite place. It was something to do with the warmth of the sun trapped in the glass room and the earth colour of the tiles with their lines and fractures.

Sometimes he felt tantalisingly close to remembering where this other place was.

His side of the porch was a mess of bags and boxes and three surf boards like dead sharks hung up to dry. The neighbour used the place to keep her boots and shoes. Black leather boots in a cut that might have belonged to a cowboy. She'd tied a clear crystal to a piece of string. The crystal caught the light as it shone on her front door.

First the crystal went. Then the boots. Now her side was clear as Zen.

Then he saw that the curtains were gone from the window in her front room.

The house started to feel like an empty house. He noticed it without thinking about it, in the same way that you might feel good when a patch of sun warms your skin.

The house was like a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle and someone was taking away a piece each day, the picture beginning to lose its shape.

After a while you start to see the blank spaces showing through.

The next bowls were blue and white bone china. They made him think of the little pieces of china that sometimes turned up like clich├ęs in the gardens of the old country cottages.

Then there was a fine evening where he sat in a chair and heard laughter mixed in with the wind rustling the leaves of the willow tree. He saw a pink rose and heard the clink of wine glasses and the music of knives and forks chiming on plates. There was a lot of laughter coming through in regular intervals like the applause between strokes in a tennis match. There was a hint of rain approaching in the grainy air.

In the morning he stepped into the porch. Looked at his car that would soon take him to another day at work. The house next door was empty. He knew it because he could feel it: this particular puzzle undone and packed away forever.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Singularity

Please see message here from Aidan Andrew Dun, a truly great poet.

You can follow the link to read the poem and visit Aidan's website.

Dear Poetry Lovers,

Here's a poem called The Singularity about the imminent arrival in our world of machines more intelligent than humans. It’s now believed that some time between 2040 and 2060 many will choose to ‘merge’ with machines ‘superior’ to man in thinking power, thus becoming artificial intellects or Artilects. Yet it’s already recognized that many humans will refuse to be ‘upgraded’.

Bio-designers who attempt to engineer just one function of a house-fly’s back-leg are necessarily very humble individuals. Yet starry-eyed GNR (genetic-nano-robotic) evangelists are telling us that we will very soon be supermen. What is certain is that every man, woman and child on the planet will increasingly be exposed to a high-powered public hype to sell the masterplan for ‘improving’ humanity.
I, for one, will be among the second-class humans who refuse the upgrade. I like computers, I’m no cyber-Luddite, but I don’t want an Imac in my cortex, thanks anyway.

If you feel The Singularity makes a point please pass it on to a friend or post on a blog.


Monday, 9 July 2012

My Life As A Market Gardener

Rills in the brown earth:
earth that sticks to the fingers
gets under the nails,
and into your pockets.

The palest of greens.
Hint of blue -
the yellowy brain
of a cauliflower

in the rain
before the silver
blade of the harvest

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Egg Timer

The phone warbles like a pigeon.
The rain on the tarry roof heats
up like olive oil in a steel pan.

By turns, we catch our breath
and the smell of pine from these
cabin walls settle the thoughts

as they come spilling down
like white grains of sand
in the constricted bulb
of an egg timer.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Where The Reading Takes Me

Sunday. Cold outside. I have this doorstep of a book. It's got a crackled cover. Well-worn as if preparing my eyes for a well-organised journey. It's cold inside. Emotionally, warm. But this is a cold place. Chill winds, twisted trees. Lonely mists. Winter herds. Palpable muck in cow byres. Trudge of boots on cobbled yards. Wisps of straw trapped in ice.

In shapeless, well-worn trousers, he stands at his open door. There's nothing more he can do now. As an afterthought, he goes back inside. Dark furniture. Opens this drawer and that drawer. He knows it's here somewhere. Knows what he's doing is futile but doesn't know it not analysing it. It just helps, that's all: helps to keep moving.

A single snow flake falls. I put my hands on the radiator and feel its warmth spreading through my hands.

Baudelaire Ltd

Finding myself on the wrong or right side of a locked door, depending on your viewpoint, and being limited in ways and means, I decided to use the time to resume my experiments in psycho-geography.

I set myself on a course of right and every third left for forty minutes.

First things first, a citrus green Jensen Interceptor. I lost some minutes admiring this relic and became aware of myself standing in the street gazing at this car and noted that standing and staring was an okay thing to do. I can drop the haste: nobody seems to mind.

I walked through a ghostly shopping mall. Business had closed and the shop spaces were like missing teeth in an invisible smile.

Instinct tends me towards the green leafy places. The next right every third left dictum turned me away from the avenue of trees that looked very beautiful in the rain and into a side alley: a series of flats that were coloured sugary pink as in a fairy tale. The flag of St George still dangled from many a window in remembrance, maybe, of England’s glorious Euro 2012 campaign. 

There was a roll of carpet lying on the pavement like someone who had just dropped dead and a super sized silver TV set like a piece of discarded spaceship.

The forty minutes was up. And here, at the heart of my journey, a white van with the words Baudelaire Ltd printed on the back doors in blood red block capitals. 

Friday, 6 July 2012


The silver bud of a saucepan held in a flower of blue gas.
Grains submerged in the energy of simmering denotes

Spaces between grains.
Spaces between your plans
and their/our reconciliation.

Feeling self-conscious
which is absurd
there only
being me

in this floral patterned
chair the covers worn
through from years of

And at this point
the water stops

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Cultural Connections With My Home Town – Coming At It Obliquely (An Occasional Series)

No: 1 – Stephen King

No-one ever forgets a good teacher. I was blessed with a stern, hawk-like English teacher who didn't suffer fools gladly. Stupid behaviour, ideas, were shot down ruthlessly. Net effect, I was always on my toes during English. I absorbed everything the great man said. Having slept-walked my way through lower school, I was now introduced to the delights of English literature. It began with Animal Farm. Details escape me; after all, it has been over a quarter of a century since I sat in his classroom, but I'll never forget the phrase 'engage brain before putting your mouth into gear...'

Sound advice. I learnt to form independent ideas. I learnt to love books. My respect for this great teacher was such that I hung onto his every word for clues.

Clues? There were many, but the one that relates to this story was when, apropos of good writing, he said 'how many of you have read Stephen King? His English is terrible but his stories are out of this world.'

Dutifully, I purchased my first Stephen King with the same sense of trepidation as I smoked my first cigarette.

Of course, Salem's Lot is a very scary book. A great yarn, too. But what really struck me was the lifestyle of Ben Mears, the main character of the novel. Like many King heroes, he was a writer. Struggling, but independent. Able to set his own agenda. The idea stuck.

Have you noticed, when you're on some kind of literary path, the connections start coming in thick and fast? I completed Salem's Lot one very hot summer in '83. I was staying with Grandparents. Despite August and the incredible heat I slept with my windows firmly shut. Sweating myself to sleep convinced that there was a vampire floating outside every window. With perfect serendipity, the film was shown on TV and my nights became even more difficult. Straker, played by James Mason, although I had no idea who James Mason was in those days, stalked my dreams. I stayed away from antique shops for fear of finding him.

Sometimes I'd accompany my Grandparents to the hospital club. My Grandparents were long retired from psychiatric nursing but were honorary members of the club. Essentially, it was a corrugated hut that doubled as a badminton court and bar where the beer was sold at a concessionary rate. Naturally, it wasn't for the badminton that my Grandparents walked there for.

The walk to the club was fine, but, with my Salem's Lot addled sensibilities the return journey was something of an ordeal. Particularly when we passed a brick building that served as a morgue. You could touch the walls and look through the black windows that were heavily barred. Having seen Salem's Lot I knew why.

Years passed and, although it still made me uneasy, I learned to sleep with the windows open again. The romantic notion of the writer's life, however, didn't leave me.

Pursuing the dream led me to a small town where, with intermittent breaks, I have spent the last ten years. I still ramble the streets as a stranger. Early journeyings found me walking past a shop window and my attention was drawn by the mannequin wearing a headscarf like a fortune teller. I gazed into her eyes while she saw right through me, my whole future, present and past. There were stuffed toys gathered round her feet: dogs, cats, squirrels and bears. Little mice wearing kitchen aprons nested on a shelf loaded with old paperbacks. I read the titles. Hammond Innes, Catherine Cookson, Bill Bryson... then sheer ice in the heart, cold fear like a dentist drill as I looked straight into the face of a man standing in the dark interior. It was him! My old nemesis James Mason – Straker, staring me straight in the eye. Oh fortune teller, why didn't you warn me?

On gathering my wits I realised that it wasn't James 'Straker' Mason. It was a framed photograph. I stepped back into the orangey street glow and looked at the shop sign – Animal Voice then, in small block capitals, JAMES MASON HOUSE.

I later discovered that Mason was a regular visitor to the town and, despite hanging a dog from the spiked railings of a cemetery, was a passionate advocate for animal rights long before such things became fashionable.

My portly and sedentary friend John who lives life in slow motion, met him once. Straker, I mean James Mason, was staying at the local hotel where John was working as a waiter. He said 'he was always in a tearing hurry. Then he died of throat cancer so his hurrying didn't do him any good.'

I'm not sure what he meant by this cryptic remark about the cryptic Mr Mason. But to this day I don't hang around when staggering home late at night past the Animal Voice shop.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Old pathways, droves subsumed
scabbed over, blankets of undulating
tar rolled out in direct lines through
clover fields, past winding rivers
pleasing as pictures in a pop-up
book inviting, asking for the probing
of a child’s fingers.
Greenish clouds shaping tunnels -
suggestion of motion, movement
in a grey sky, an airy wingspan
to stop the breath
our hearts on the path.


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Monday, 2 July 2012

Signifier Time

Dinner time!
The West Country accent
homely as shepherd's pie.

Dinner time.
Tea time!

So it went on.
Dinner was dinner,
tea was tea. Simple.

When did it happen?

Someone's house complicated the simple dinner/tea time sign/signifier relationship.

Perhaps it was that boy with the foreign name that was too hard to say so we all called him 'Shen'. He wore polo necked sweaters and used the word sweater. Not jumper.

There was a saucer on a window sill filled with strange money that had holes cut
through the middle like a Polo Mint. Polo Sweater, Polo Mint...

There were no West Country voices in this house.

Dinner was lunch. Tea was dinner. A complicated arrangement that took me a long
time to get my head around.

There was a cake tin and we were given a slice. Home-made fruit cake. Did I need a plate?
-What, you mean that you can eat a cake without a plate?
Sure. As long as you don't drop crumbs in the lounge.

Lounge? Where I come from its called a sitting room. Sometimes we eat our tea in there while watching the West Country news and the money in Grandad's pockets doesn't – don't- have any holes in it.


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