Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Inglorious Piper on the Cemetery Path

Watercolour - The Inglorious Piper
along the path I hear the music
and fiddles
and the steady rhythm
of a funeral drum
I press my ears to a tomb
and feel the music
course through my bones
and into my soul
and suddenly I can see the dead
a great crowd of them
laughing and cavorting
in the wintersmith's world
of snow and ice and sleet
and the are not the doleful spirits
novels and films have hinted at
but celebrous wonders
and they offer me morsels of food
scratched up from the dark places
to help carry my spirit
from the heavy lead of flesh

Fade to Grey


Saturday, 26 December 2009

This is how we know them

This is how we know them

Kirsty has a grey bobble hat with a white bobble
that dances as she trots arm-in-arm with her lover.
Luisa sports a blur peaked cap made of corduroy,
with streamers of grey hair escaping into the frigid air
DK wears no hat but in deference to the cold
has three layers zipped to his chin
Mike's multicoloured woollen dreadlocks
bring a smile to those he passes
and one Amy sports a luminous peasant's hat,
the other a balaclava with a faux-mohecan.

and Rachel?
Rachel has flaming red hair bursting from a purple scarf
and carried her heart in a novel.

Poplar Walk

Poplar Walk

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Sad Tattle of the Man-Mer (a Rubaiyat)

"I stink of fish," the young man said
"a bath, I think, and thence to bed"
and with these words he went upstairs
where he preferred to lay his head.

I watched him go, though no one dares
to tell him of the people's stares
as he performs his daily chores
with not a hint of worldly cares.

A village such as this has bores
who poke and prod at shuttered doors
that should remain forever barred
against the gossip merchant wars.

The young man's life is extra-hard
thanks to the actions of a guard
who dallied long with herring red
and made his son a half-pilchard.

Brampton St. Thomas

Walton Dam

Feet crunch in crisp snow

bells ring and ducks squabble

in the still air

Paintings and Lies

Painting stack

Some fibonacci poems at the Muse Pie Press

Monday, 21 December 2009

An Act of Kindness

It was with some regret that Social Services
failed in the provision of guidance
for little Jimmy Trubshaw.
The paperwork was passed on, glossed over
and filed under H for 'Hopeless Case'
and little Jimmy was left behind the barred windows
of Laverstone Sanatorium where, to all accounts,
he was a model citizen and disinclined
to unsociable behaviour.
As a Christmas treat Nurse Susan Bowler
signed him out under her care and took him home
to her gaily decorated flat and her two cats
Flotsam and Harbinger.
The police ware called at 11 Pm on Christmas Eve
after Nurse Bowler had failed to put her two cats out
and both had burned to death
along with the stumps
of little Jimmy's dark wings.

Old Lamp-post

Rust on lamp post

Saturday, 19 December 2009


brief but bitter flurries of snow sweep across
a street brought prematurely dark by clouds
thick with winter's fury
yellow vapour lamps become reflected glare
from snow compacted into shadowed ice
and gives a sickly glow
but the glimmer of the fading light
I see the shadow of a wing├ęd form
and the crying of a landlocked gull

Irongate again


Friday, 18 December 2009

Thursday, 17 December 2009



It's still dark when I wake – the dog has such soft fur in the morning
but she wants her belly rubbed and I'm need to get dressed.
The bathroom's cold, the water scalding, the shower head too low
raise, rinse, repeat. Why does the alarm go off when I have wet hands?
Darkness. Feed the dog, the cat; reboot the computer that's stalled
during the night. Tea. Poetry. Wake the child.
Ten to nine. Write a flash. Flirting? Flirting equals murder in my book.
The sun's out. Walk the dogs. Beautiful sun in the cemetery.
Twitter a haiku. Red milk at the shop. I can see into the spare bedroom
from the next street down. Home. Into town with DK.
He says it feels like Christmas, walking arm in arm with me in the hail.
Bacon butty. The chap next to us asks if he butters the bread.
No, the cook says, lathering the bacon in oil. That'd be fattening.
Shopping. Art shop. What fabulous watercolour paper. Too pricey!
Home. Writing. Painting – I adore Prussian Blue. DK off to college.
Don't die in the snow. Lu cooks us some dinner. It's snowing hard now,
I hope it doesn't stick. I have to take the dog to the vet tomorrow.

Coffee Break

Church Lane

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Dealing with Loss

The words spill from the page,
pooling on the hardwood floor
they'd paid for out of the proceeds
of plying the flesh trade in Highgate Cemetery.
(She'd been disgusted at first
but it was all right when you got used to the smell
and as Don had said: the dead have needs too.)

She gathers them up by scooping with both hands;
dumps them on the coffee table
where 'loss' becomes stuck between two boards
that split from the heat of the gas fire last winter
when it was so cold the dog peed in the kitchen
and it froze.

She casts about for something
to pry the errant word out
and picks up a letter opener
but the word shatters when it leaves its wooden embrace,
an S sliding under the skirting
never to be seen again.

No matter.

A pair of pliers turns its loss
into IS LOST

Walton Dam, Fog

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Garden of Turkish Delights

The Garden of Turkish Delights

they tempted him with an idea --
a cedar-scented memory of Friday afternoons
in the room above the chapel
at St Andrew's School for Boys
and Bosch's triptych
projected onto the dry-wipe board.

The sadistic pleasures of Hell
where tortured souls writhed on pitchforks and
cavorted with the heads of birds and fish;
the austere calm of Heaven
where angels sang with sweet devotion
and the Garden of Earth Delights
where mortals were tempted by sins of the flesh;
The gluttony and the fornication
and the perversions of apples.

But when he got to the club
and paid his admittance (plus the one-off membership fee)
his visions of belly dancers and slave girls
were shattered by the reality
of rose-scented jellies
and women in hair nets like canteen staff
who offered to feed him from long-handled tongs.

At the hotel
he picks at the scabs of spoiled childhood
and remembers the guilty pleasure
of lying on his front with one hand down his trousers
and Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus'.

Walton Dam

Walton Dam

Friday, 11 December 2009

Poetry forms: The Etheree

Let's Call it a Courtship

to treat you;
to take you to
a new restaurant
where they served gourmet food
of the kind you ate as a child
when you sipped of the tormented,
drank wine made from the blood of the damned
and teased slivers of flesh from broken souls


cemetery bench

cemetery bench
braves the winter storms
green with moss

Thursday, 10 December 2009

After the Gloaming, After a Bath

Exhausted, he lies with his head
resting on the widow sill, eyes closing
because he wants to sleep
but there's a chance – just a chance
because the night has come and the curtains are closed –
that someone might stand up
stretch their arms until the joints pop
like Friday night's movie corn
and say:
"I think I'll take Bear for a walk"


05-12-09 Curious Goods

Waiting for Amy
Bear patient
in the Shambles

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Coal Shovels

Coal Shovels

the black pudding
is especially black
on a shovel

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

As I walked through the Park, with the Dogs

Passing the playground, I saw a coat hung on the railings
where people could see and claim it if it was theirs
and I was led to wonder what child would forget their coat?

It was blue, and green and yellow, with a red hood
(though there were not wolves in Chesterfield, not of the lupine sort)
and two woollen mittens hanging from the sleeves
on a piece of string.

It would have fitted a pre-school child and I was left to wonder
what kind of mother takes a child home without their coat?

Frost, Cemetery


Monday, 7 December 2009

Seasoned Hitchhiker

He bent his head away as the juggernaut rolled past,
spraying a red sea of water from the gutter
and soaking his fleece jacket and chilling him to the bone.
Lifts were getting harder to come by these days
ever since the Eighties when the Yorkshire Ripper
prowled the M1 and people became afraid to stop
and let an old man have a ride.
There were still a few – students mostly, eager to test
the urban legend about axemen on the roads –
who'd still offer a lift and he was grateful for it.
The bravado of two men was entertaining still
and he could keep them alive and begging for hours.

Abandoned Greenhouses

Abandoned greenhouses

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Late Afternoon, after the Crowds

03-12-09 Tea at Costa Coffee

An outside table in the sheltered courtyard of a town cafe
and three women who do not smoke but brave the chill
of December's sun as the afternoon wanes and reddens
into twilight.

Under parasols still damp from morning rain tiny lights
in cotton boxes flicker on – a kindness from the folks inside
who see the women huddled in the gloaming waiting
for their freshly ordered drinks.

Darjeeling for the one in black coated freckles,
red hair flecked with grey and streaming from cocoons
of purple scarf and hat and gloves she peels from fingers
long and pale.

For one in shades of scarlet grey, the Earl is set aside
with just a hint of sugar and a slice of fresh-cut lime --
fingers fly across her phone and she smiles southern charm
and sudden tears.

Skinny de-caff latte for the third with face so drawn
and etched with stress of work and troubles yet – a smile
of recognition for these other kindred two while above their heads
the moon rises


30-11-09 Chapel Hady Hill

Saturday, 5 December 2009

05-12-09 tea at peacocks

Ten for a Pound


intermittent rain patters across the canvas roofs of an outdoor market
turning the gay stripes into collecting pools and sending shadows
racing across the wooden boards of the stalls.
rare shafts of sunlight are caught and fractured by a stall selling stained and art deco glass until the sun is occluded by shadows once more,
leaving Saturday shoppers with the scent of hot chestnuts and wet cobblestones
and the cries of the man selling bananas ten for a pound

1960 Triumph

1960 Triumph 1960 Triumph

Collected DK's motorbike on the way home from town -- Stu, the mechanic, has a beautiful 1960 Triumph he's selling for £2000
Ah! If only...

Friday, 4 December 2009

We ate Chocolates at the End of the World

Align Center

at the end of the world we set up a camping gas stove
with a kettle of water drawn from the Well of Euphrates
and made tea with a packet of Earl Grey liberated from the ruins
of the Last Tesco in Hertfordshire (though we left a voucher).

We drank it with a slice of lemon from the Tree of Solitude
and watched Hell spew forth demons so fast they blocked the sun
(until we asked them politely to move)
and laid waste to what was left of Marks and Spencer's
while they waited for the angels to muster and the last horn to be blown.

And they shared the last box of Thorntons' continental with us
but kept the Cherry Truffle for themselves

Bench Friday - Queens Park

Benches, Queen's Park

a line of benches
watch an empty cricket field
water drips

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A Novel Construction

she stares at the buckets of words for several minutes
then picks one – the one that used to hold the paint for the kitchen wall
and still has the colour splashed on the rim – and upends it.
Words tumble out in a great clattering, spattering, spilling over the table
and small, rounds words like 'on' and 'ere' skitter across the pine
fall on the red clay quarry tiles and slide under the fridge'
She takes a handful and arranges them on a fresh sheet of paper:
"Margaret Daly was surprised by the amount of blood..."
and takes a second handful and a third; interlocking phrases
with prepositions and conclusions, the prose climbing
higher and higher, layer after layer like a Lego tower.

This is how she constructs a novel, with each part dependant
on the one beneath; page after page climbing to the roof.

Hady Hill Cemetery

Hady Hill Cemetery

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Solace of a Crow in a Cemetery

she was promised a wish come true by a crow with a broken wing
as she took the short-cut home from school though the cemetery
(it was a Thursday and she'd had cottage pie for dinner
served by the lady who always wore a hair net, even at weekends)
"Why me?" she'd asked, but the crow nodded five times
and if it were doing chin-up before it limped away.
The following morning she asked her English teacher, Mrs Maguire
(who was Scots) whether there was a precedent for such things
but the teacher just shrugged and said crows were bad luck
but if she became Queen remember who gave her an A.
On Saturday she went to the lake and waited for the sword
to rise up from the water but nothing happened
but the soughing of the wind and the reflection of a kite
and she was just wishing she'd brought a sandwich
when her dad appeared with a picnic and a bottle of Tizer
and told her stories of her long-dead mother.

Rainy Cemetery

29-11-09 cemetery (2)