Monday, 29 December 2014

Voices From The Sea

A voice from the sea
speaks in a far away garden

washes the night
out of the leaves

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Dumb Phone

It is difficult to concentrate right now: some soap opera
is being played out through the medium of smart phone.

Meanwhile, the sky is a pleasing shade of grey and the rain
adds a slight distortion to the trees where there is a shed redolent 
with the perfume of a petrol lawnmower.

A blue bicycle with three-speed Sturmey Archer gears
slouches in the corner, the black leather satchel strapped
to the saddle for carrying the lunch box, Thermos flask, newspaper 
and other essential non-essentials to get through the day.

Other things appear
through the rough green leaves
and the star shaped ones
that look as if they have been
cut from brown parcel paper.

In the log scented gloom of the shed
the red reflector on the mudguard signals our
present past location; the glint travelling
into the imperfect future,
the silence blighted

by this dumb phone.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

No Turning Back

I am probably not alone in this ritual: to read the greatest novel of Christmas at the beginning of the holidays and to savour the very last word on Christmas Eve.

To finish the last page before the great day itself is a point of honour - this book that first entered my life as a schoolboy, a reading list compiled by a teacher to broaden my horizons.

But I didn’t get around to reading it until I was at secondary school. The book waited until I was ready to go on its journey, the opening scenes of snow and Christmas soon seen through a transfer of strangeness so that the very world around me, and my place in it, seemed capable of anything

a strange horseman
riding out of the cover
to carry me away
into a melancholy forest
and never, despite everything,
to really return.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

University Challenge

Like many a child of my generation, I was convinced that the contestants on University Challenge were somehow suspended in boxes in a row above each other. The presenter had strange woolly hair and an even stranger name – Bamber Gasket - or something like that. The theme tune sounded like it was being played on a doorbell as the students, reading history and politics and what not waved goodbye. They all had long hair and beards, floral shirts and carried furry totems known as gonks. Gonk knows why.

Whenever I watched this programme I had difficulty in understanding the questions never mind knowing any of the answers.

As I got older and more intellectual my strike rate began to improve: I could usually answer at least one question a series. Eventually, I went to university myself. It was certainly a challenge. For the first semester I grappled literary theory. I didn’t come off too well in that particular grapple. I sat with rapt attention in lecture hall after lecture hall wearing an expression of what I hoped was cool sophistication. Derrida perhaps, working on a particularly tricky crossword puzzle. But the truth was, I didn’t understand a sodding word of it. Ferdinand de Saussure? Forget it. The only thing I understood about him was that the spell check tried to change his name to Sausage. Messed up as I was, I probably accepted the suggestion. One time I wrote a structuralist interpretation of a Dickens novel and actually got a First for it. The tutor wrote ‘this is a delight’ next to the coffee stain on the cover sheet. The only problem was, I didn’t have a clue as to what I had written or done to deserve such praise. Wandering lonely as a daffodil around the campus I began to doubt my sanity. I asked myself things like, ‘does that sign FIRE EXIT really signify FIRE EXIT? And what did that tutor really mean when he said ‘good morning’? It was a vexing business. And I never saw one damned gonk in any of the corridors.

Somehow, I survived. My strike rate for University Challenge tripled! I was now averaging three questions per series. And, being an educated man, I now knew that the contestants didn’t really sit in boxes suspended above each other.

Fortunately, my intellectual days are long behind me now. I’m content to drink beer and watch Match of the Day without worrying about what the ball and net might really signify in a post colonial theory context with an amusing twist thrown in by Julie Kristeva and whether Alan Hansen’s post match analysis could be linked to a post modern reading of The Knight’s Tale.   

But the other evening I accidentally watched University Challenge. The show has gone through some changes. The gentle Bamber has been replaced by the notoriously abrasive Paxman. The doorbell music is the same. Gonks are now extinct. The questions, despite my university degree, are just as incomprehensible. So imagine my shock when I suddenly scored five consecutive points in a row. As usual I knew nothing about the trivial subjects of science, mathematics and the arts. Then Paxman said, ‘Brunel, your specialised round is on sausages.’

I got every damn one of them right. Move over, Sir Ferdinand Sausage. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Patch Of Garden

I set out a boundary
using sticks
and string
and stones.

The light dims.

A dream of blades,
the sound of a motor.
Belongs to a red rotavator
pushed by a strong armed man
sweating in a string vest.

I pull back the morning curtain.
Let what’s left of the night out of the room.

My patch of garden is gone.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Poem To Pour On Your Sunday Roast

On Sundays, I eat.
Make up for lost time.

Roast potatoes,
chicken and gravy
made to my own recipe.

Rock and roll is okay,
but a good stock and oil
is where it's really at.

If the hippies
in the sixties
had known this,
they would have got busted
for possession of Oxo cubes.

Gravy is like a concept album.
I get mine from my very own graveyard.

It has a continuous thread of flavour
running through it like a good bass and rhythm section,
but it's the tinkering with herbs,
the splashing in of wine that adds a further,
truly cosmic dimension.

A continual work in progress
to reach the gravy grail
of ever elusive perfection.
Carcinogen busting carrots,
cabbage and broccoli.

Stoking up, fuelling myself for the week ahead
where meals get skipped or forgotten.

Or if they are remembered,
they probably do more harm than good.

No two gravies are ever quite the same.
Which is precisely the point to it.

So let go,
set sail, float
your very own gravy boat.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Story To Be Going On With

Here is a story where the opening scene happens last.

It ends and begins with a smile and a raincoat.

You carry a newspaper filled with old news and out of the way tales
that social commentators will one day savour for their strangeness.

But for now, to be going on with, are just stories to be going on with.

Someone’s life story
in three paragraphs.
A novel, a doorbell,
coffee, a book capable
of making freedom out of paper
and sending it out into the day.

Painting yourself is a good idea: brightens things.
Adds to the shape that the horizon brings.

Snow glass on a painted word.
A day shaped at last

as you
come listening
on your visiting
wearing a smile.

And a raincoat.

Monday, 8 December 2014


Photo: Su Joy

Opium or sandalwood drifting
from the burning stick in the window.

A pale moon rises
and we’re a long way from home.

Running on empty
we dip down into the reserves,

find what we need
to go even further.

Further beyond this blue.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cherry Virginia

The blackbird sifts
loose change
in a pocket of mist.

Brown leaves
paper the misty

One by one
they lift, slowly
let go


Morlock Oil

Morlock Oil
A new collection of stories available now . Click on image for details.

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery
New Chapbook Available (email for details)


Bunchgrass Press

Essential guides for the journey...