Thursday, 31 October 2013

If Ghosts Walked Abroad In The Daylight

Sound of water in the wheels as the car glides through the ford. Drive too fast going down the hill. Two white shapes. Check my speed – the rumps of two white donkeys ambling down the road. Annoying in-between rain. Don't know whether to leave the wipers on or off. The arc of a porch growing out of a white cottage wall. Further out still, lamps in windows.

Reach town. Leaves piled up on a street corner. They make the shape of a sleeping man who might rise at any moment to terrify some passer-by.

The Big Issue seller plants himself in the brightly lit portal of the supermarket. No way for anyone to get past him without being drawn in to some slice of human trade. The cover of the magazine is a sickly green. I tell him no thanks. He tells me to have a nice night.

A lot of anger, out here tonight. I'm driving again. The driver behind seems to be doing his best to vanish up my exhaust pipe. I indicate, turn off, but he's still there: his cold lights filling the interior of this, my private space. I pull over. The car swerves around me, the hooded driver hunched down at the wheel as if he's scoring an all-time new high score in a computer game. That there might be real flesh and blood, people travelling on their own legitimate and troubling business hasn't computed with this driver as he speeds down the built up street.

I'm about to pull out when I see a man in my wing mirror. He's shaking his head. I'd like to think that he's as appalled by the tail-gating driver as I am. He has this long beard and a leather motorcycle jacket on. A heavy rucksack on his back. He has the choice of waiting two seconds for me to pull out or to walk round. He decides on this last option. As he draws level with me, he turns and gives me the finger. For a split second I contemplate leaping out and seeing how brave he is without the armour of the car between us.

Home again, I've almost forgotten him.

Everything feels cold. The keys under my fingers. The bed I lie on. Most of all, the air I breath. The cold air gets between my fingers. Lingers over the keys.

Staccato laughter. A tele­phone conversation. The pauses in-between...

The furnace-like energy of the boiler. The rumble and clang of a truck heading out of town. The laughter, peeling again. The words, muffled by the floorboards.

A break in the conversation – one sided, of course.

Unbidden, distant memory. Don't want to, refuse to go there...

Another wave of car sound. The faint turning of pages.

The doorbell rings.

I stand at the top of the stairs. Through the distortion of the crushed glass I see an orange shape. It's that time of year again. I open the door and carry it in. I walk through to the kitchen, the pumpkin held under my arm as if I was rehearsing for a part in Hamlet. 

Back upstairs again, the TV hangs in the window like a black flag. The old TV, relegated to the bedroom. I suppose we envisioned cosy evenings watching late night films in bed. It has a little red stand-by light in the bottom right corner. It burns at night like a demon's eye once all the lights are out. I swear I've had more entertainment from this stand-by light than from anything we ever saw on the TV. Just me in the dark, the night stretching out like a Viking ship ahead of us. Each thought an oar carrying us across the surface until we go our separate ways into dream or oblivion.

The TV has a logo that looks like a silver face forever smiling.

It was just yesterday that we walked through the graveyard. The wind was fierce and the hurricane predictions seemed all too likely to come true. A Saxon church with the original timbers below a mullioned window. The glass in the window was an impenetrable black. A sundial, of all things, set on the wall. If ever ghosts walked abroad in the daylight, then this would be the place...

The silver smiles on until I get the feeling that I could almost fill in the missing spaces and silver, once again, flashes on the water broken by the tail of some leviathan rising up from the deep.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sunlight On A Hazel Tree

I pulled the door open some more. It wouldn't have mattered if I had been wearing a full evening suit replete with deerstalker and cravat. The eyes of the man standing in my porch looked right through me and knew everything. All that I had been thinking. Everything I am.

He wore a blue hat and had the bushiest eyebrows I'd ever seen. His eyes smiled like sunlight on a hazel tree. His hair was white as was his most extraordinary beard.

Neither of us said a word. He looked down at his hands. They were holding an orange sphere that I recognised straight away. I hadn't seen that sphere in nearly thirty years. Hadn't thought of it, either. But there it was, held in the hands of this strange early morning caller.

He held it out to me. Yep. It was the same one alright.

The old man looked at the silver button that sat on the top of the sphere.

Then he looked at me and waited.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Particularly Slow-witted Doctor Watson

Whenever I put on my bathrobe I think about George Orwell.

There's a line in one of his essays that I read in my misspelled youth. It says that whenever Sherlock Holmes wanted to think he put his dressing gown on.

Usually, whenever I am woken in this brutal fashion, unless I've been on a real bender the night before, it's the postman with a letter that needs signing for.

I like to think, as I open the door, that I cut a Holmesian figure of concentrated thought and intelligence. That the postman will obviously realise that he's in the presence of a great philosopher and gentleman and that he will involuntarily but automatically tug on his forelock and mumble a humble apology for interrupting a man who was clearly meditating upon great and valuable work.

I opened the door a fraction. The light was blinding. I did my best to see through eyes still gummed with sleep. My hair was all stood up on end and a field of stubble had grown across my face. My toe throbbed. I looked down and noticed that I was wearing odd socks. The sock on the left was black and decorated with gold stars. The one on the right was made of blue and white hoops. It also had a hole that let my big toe through.

I began to suspect that the postman wouldn't confuse me with a particularly slow-witted Doctor Watson who had turned to drink, never mind Sherlock Holmes.

Then, with a burst of Holmes-like deduction, I swiftly deduced that whoever was on the other side of the door couldn't be a postman. Today was Sunday!

But who on earth could it be, knocking at this unearthly hour?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Remembering George Orwell

There are times when we have to deal with IT knocking at the door and, to put it mildly, we are not looking our best.

On this particular rainy morning I was swimming through the dregs of a dream where the sea had swept into town and all of the streets were fast going under. The waves carried a painful, persistent knocking sound which some part of my brain sifted, separated from the dream and went about sending an immediate, shocking alarm call to the layers of my mind that weren't completely submerged in the depths that were very cold and blue.

Wake up! Wake up now! That knocking noise isn't part of your dream. The knocking is real and it's coming from your very own front door...

Like a crack commando, instantly ready for anything, I sprang from my bed and fell over the cat with military precision. Cursing, the cat swirling in all directions like water spinning down a plug-hole, I grabbed my bathrobe and headed for the stairs. Somehow I managed to stub my toe on the way, a four letter expletive threatening to burst through my lips.

I pulled my bathrobe tighter and, despite the pain in my toe, remembered George Orwell.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Road To Anywhere

A man walks down the road wearing a pair of khaki trousers and army boots.

It's a misty day and his camouflage clothing is very effective: I nearly ran him over before I saw him, thumb stuck out hoping to hitch a lift.

Having almost killed him, I decided giving him a ride was the least I could do.

He got in, said thanks and lit up a cigarette.

He wound the window down and everything about him, the way he kept flicking his hair out of his eyes, the fast puffing on the cigarette spoke agitation.

A cheap ear-ring dangled from his ear.

'So where're you heading?'

'Anywhere will do.'

The mist was a white wall and it was hard going, the handbrake like a pistol between us on the ghostly road to anywhere.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sunsets In Cellars

Black disc, the heart of the music.
Cut with precision. A mutilation.

The white dog with brown ear stares into the brim.

The witch's hat. Left here and picked up again, it nearly being that time again.

Silver stares from the machine, it's elegant lines. Modernity when the word was first coined. 
At some time it must have pounded. I sit directly opposite slowly drawing what I can.


Fairy tale porridge fills this room.

Bolt in my throat. I tighten it with a willing spanner being my own worst enemy.

A row of fires in metal hearths.
Sunsets in cellars as we pleasantly drift.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Great Storm Conductor

With the first rumble Grandad would unplug the TV.
Granny would turn all of the mirrors to face the wall.

When the first flash bolted Granny would say look!

Then hark! after the first clap.

Granny was a great storm conductor.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

All's Well

all systems go
the first taste of action

the control box in the closet
concealed by coats
hanging as from the gallows

the click and gurgle of power
blasting, boiling thru copper

the smell of dust burning
the red signalling all's well.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Pine And Sparrow Clouds

Last night I took time out from myself. Watched TV. Friday night comedy that felt cold and silly and the screen locked me, drained away the better part of me.

Mixed in with this was the memory of a man who got injured in a driving accident. A blow to the head meant that his speech was drunken and he walked with a limp. I used to drink with him on Friday nights such as these.

The inn not far from here
three pints of brown ale
brewed from pine
and sparrow clouds.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Cold Pilchards

Living rough, once. A cabin on the shore.

Your bed smelt like a river.
You often went under.

You packed up your belongings – two pairs of trousers, a biography of Orwell and I can't remember what else, in a metal trunk brown with rust. Planted it in a hedge of docks and cow-parsley every morning.

Savage living, it was.

Cold pilchards, straight from the can.

One day a truck seat dumped on the shore
became your front room.

You made
good use of it.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Let's Consider The Meaning Of Good

Let's consider the meaning of good.
The farmer rises
pre-dawn and gone into skies of rain
hard labour, hauling stones
until one afternoon
he sits in an armchair,
afternoon of the seventh day
waves of light...

holes in the knees, elbows out
legs stretched before him
travelling on for miles
flagstones and heels
thatch of hair, stubble on his cheeks, and eyes
far away, going the distance
head back, black gap for a tooth
the void to come.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

This Particular Blink Of An Eye

The old man drank ale from a pewter tankard.
He knew my name before I told it.

The sky gathered snow
and more will surely
come tonight.

And the events that passed
in this particular blink of an eye

still show no sign
of letting me go.

Monday, 14 October 2013

If Cattle Carried Mobile Phones

A range of digitalised destination boards – three to be precise, all heading Frank’s way. Frank took the first, and what turned out to be the worst choice.  The slow bus that seem to travel half way around southern England before arriving at the place where he was supposed to be.

The continuing sunshine did nothing to improve the situation: it had tricked Frank into leaving home without a coat when an easterly wind arrived and cut through him. Which didn’t take long, what with Frank being so terribly thin that even some of his enemies worried about him.

This wind was just another piece of psychic ammunition that the day had decided to hurl at him.

If anything could go wrong, it would.

An endless series of low level disruptions that threatened to tip Frank over the EDGE.

In fact, things were so bad that Frank was wondering where the EDGE was so that he could tip himself over without any further pushing.

Take this morning.

The first bus didn’t arrive.

The second bus finally arrived twenty minutes late.

An old man on board lost his temper and shouted at the herd of students who’d invaded the bus like a cattle stampede. If cattle carried mobile phones and listened to rap music sans headphones. If cattle were dumb enough to buy single tickets when they needed returns and had to go clattering down the spiral staircase and go through the whole rigmarole of getting the driver to change the tickets which held things up for another twenty minutes and Frank was late for a very important meeting and felt like someone had placed a cinder block on his breastbone.

From now on, Frank vowed that he would study destination boards more carefully.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

I Turn All Of The Mirrors

Glued on leaves suspended in a gelid plasma.
The riders parted the grasses with the hooves of their horses.
One rider sleeping somehow holding on through the thundering.


You rush out with a predictable camera
I turn all of the mirrors
towards the darkness decorated
with foil stars

someone makes fires from wrappers
transparent flames
of purples, yellows

the shapes of a soldier
all gallant
in cap, coat and gun
that lifts until
the muzzle barks
lifting the lid
on a cosmic hum.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Skulls And Crossbones

tall trees. spikes
through a gauze of mist.
The slow railway line
washes out everything else.
except autumn's skulls
and crossbones 


Friday, 11 October 2013

The Graveyard Of Ale

My memory says that it was an evening much like this one.

Plenty of sun. But cold enough to still need a scarf, jacket on.

A maze of streets.

I can't, from this place in time, navigate them now.

The long road at the edge of town.

Big houses with driveways and carriage lamps. Cars shaped like space shuttles.

A church at the end of the road. St. Lawrence's.

Heavy set boy we all called Kay. He had a taste for Sven Hassle novels and The Damned.

He also had a scam.

Kay's uncle looked after the churchyard.

His idea was that we'd cut the grass for his uncle. 

In return, we'd earn enough money to buy a gallon of ale.


The Bull Inn. Whitewashed, old-style pub with no pretensions. The place where working men drank. Two pints on a Friday night. A game of darts. Catch up on the local news. That was it.

The Bull was the place to go.

Provided that you were quiet and stayed out in the back where the pool table was so that you could make yourself scarce if the police showed up.

Which they never did.

Neither of us had yet plucked up courage to go in, but this was the place that Kay thought we could drink our gallon of ale.

I can see us now, gliding around the graveyard, scalping and burning the grass. There was one grave that had a life-size angel on top. The grave was locked away behind wrought iron gates.

I don't know why such a security measure was necessary. Who was planning to go in there?

Or come out?

I can see us wearing ridiculous clothes, although at the time I thought that I looked like an amalgam of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Mick Jagger, waiting in an alley on a dusky evening. 

Kay, cool.

Me trembling with nerves at the prospect, audacity of our plan.

It's taken me thirty years to get around to drinking that gallon of ale.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Spider Webs Shroud Your Lamps

Oh, the green-eyed apple girl, her white house
surrounded by fields of blood-red poppies.
Now, as far as I know, she spins silver,
hammers copper.

Rain on the pane in bluish-transparent worms.

Valley forms a bowl of cropped-grass.
Mountain ash on the ridge in full orange berry.
Feathery leaves, Zen-like in their pared down simplicity.

I set out for the school house.
Cast off card boards the windows
to collect dust and ancient webs,
the bodies of bluebottles all husks
and hollows.

Spider webs shroud your lamps. Shadows ride the water.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Shredding Of Horoscopes

The paper was part of her plan.
I should have listened.
The tearing of news,
the shredding of horoscopes.

Sunday, 6 October 2013


The computer slowly sucked his eyeballs out.

Scooped out the whites like a teaspoon working a hard-boiled egg. The whoosh of cyber connected/disconnected him.

Like Gollum and the Ring, the virtual world drew him in until he couldn't leave it alone.

Finally becoming invisible.

Meanwhile, the shaman writes with a fountain pen.

Words flow from sky, rain, through poppies into brain, thought, bone, muscle, tissue
and out onto spiral bound paper the words ever spiralling.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Something Or Other Would Reveal Itself Through A Complacent Movement

Fairy lights strewn through the leaves of the neighbour's trees have the desired effect. It's as if we've wandered into the pages of a magical tale. The sky is tinted with a mysterious green and a sickle moon adds a further cosmic element. A strange cawing comes from the sky and soon reveals itself in the shape a grey heron lazily skimming itself along in the direction of the river.

Meanwhile, a black car drives a winding road through twilit woods. Bluesy Bob Dylan fills the car. The smell of summer comes in through the open window. The driver sees a light some ways off in the woods to his right. He can't look for too long, the road being full of curves.

It's a white light framed in a square that blends with the surrounding darkness. Not quite the right light to signify a window because the whiteness flickers, blurs and can't keep still. Besides, as the driver could tell you, there are no houses in these woods.

The road moves on. Comes to a white sign hanging from a tree that says TROUT FARM. The road connects to another bigger road. Comes to a town. It's late now and the driver feels very tired. Like he shouldn't be driving at all. A shape that might be a cat runs down a pavement. The shape turns.

The driver is thinking about the field he'd passed earlier in the afternoon. The field had been very dry with stubble bleached white and almost silver in places. A buzzard sat on a pole scanning the verges for prey. It was inevitable, the driver had thought, that something, maybe a mouse or rabbit, would betray itself through a complacent movement.

The eyes that belonged to the shape that ran along the pavement fixed on the driver. The eyes were two golden discs in the headlight glare. Then they were gone as the shape turned and ran, revealing itself to be a fox.

The driver slowed and turned into a drive. He parked the car, half of the bonnet smothered by a lilac bush. The purple flowers lying on the black bonnet would create a striking colour contrast come morning.

It was still damn hot.

The neighbours were having some kind of party. Voices and laughter. Fairy lights strewn through the trees.

The driver looked up to see a sickle moon. Some trick of light and cloud caused him to see double. There were two moons. The moon had created a mirror image of itself. The driver rubbed at his eyes and the original went away. Happy to see that there was just one moon shining above his house, the driver put his front door key in the lock and went on inside.

I suppose I should come clean.

After all, you're probably thinking, doesn't this driver have a name?

So yes, I'll admit it. I am the driver.

It was inevitable that something or other would reveal itself through a complacent movement.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Dave was trying to get his head around jazz.

The drummer poet was discussing beats and rhythms.

It was hard going what with it being late and his eyes not liking staring at a computer screen for too long which these days wasn't for very long at all.

He wished that he could remember the words that his friend Will used to describe the thrum-hum-sap that came from being engaged with a computer.

Dave could see the day coming when everyone would have i-pads implanted in their foreheads instead of brains.

But this thought wasn't helping him get his head around jazz.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Carrot Chronicles

I scrape at the carrots to make leathery peelings revealing orange flesh that takes me back to the teeth of a horse.

He was a dozy old horse that had about as much grace to his movements as a circus jalopy.

I can see him now nosing at his salt lick. Never thinking to strain at his tether as the master looked on wearing a tweed coat that might have been stolen from the music hall.

The master of the horse had a crystal ball that helped him to see into the future.

I don't know where these insights got him but I'm pretty sure he's still out there now and doing alright. I'd also wager that he doesn't wear that coat any more. It was just a passing phase.

As was the great idea of owning a clumsy old horse.

If I could see him now I'd tell him that I've seen ice, felt sun. That there's a fork in the road and I want to go down each one.

In other words, I'd like to tell him that not much has changed really.


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